29 September 2022:
Veteran documentary filmmaker Maysoon Pachachi’s debut fiction feature OUR RIVER...OUR SKY will have its UK premiere during the 30th edition of Raindance Film Festival (26 October – 5 November).
Programmed in the festival’s “Homegrown” strand, the October 29 premiere at Curzon Cinema Soho will be presented by the film’s London-based director, together with members of the film's UK-based actors and crew
“When I set up my film production company in London in 1993, it was in direct response to the Gulf War,” Pachachi said “Since then, I have aimed to share authentic stories of Iraqis and other people from the Middle East with British audiences - initially through a documentary film I made for Channel 4 and now, many years later, with this ensemble narrative inspired by the lives of real people coping during the time of intense sectarian violence that began unfolding in 2006.”
Landing its world premiere at Sarajevo Film Festival, OUR RIVER…OUR SKY was notably the first Arab film to win the $100,000 IWC Filmmaker Award at Dubai International Film Festival. Since launching its festival tour in 2021 in the formerly war-torn city of Sarajevo, the film was featured at highly anticipated screenings in the MENA region at Cairo IFF, Slemani IFF, Amman IFF, and at Franco-Arab Film Festival in Baghdad. The film was also selected for Arab film festivals in San Francisco, Berlin, and Rotterdam and met with well-attended screenings at Arab World Institute in Paris and Institut Lumière in Lyon, France.
The film gained critical acclaim following its Arab world premiere at Cairo International Film Festival, after which Kais Kassem wrote: “…one of the best films featured in Horizons of New Arab Cinema Competition … using a convincing cinematic style that poses questions about what is happening and happened before”.
OUR RIVER…OUR SKY is an ensemble film of intersecting stories that take place in the last week of 2006 – between Christmas and New Year. It tells the stories of ordinary Iraqis trying to live their everyday lives amidst unpredictable violence. The central character of the film – described by KQED (USA) as a “fiction writer played with great charm and heart by Darina Al Joundi” is a single mother and novelist, who struggles to make sense of the fragmentation of her world. Shortly before the New Year, following the unexpected news of Saddam Hussein’s execution, Sara and her neighbors brace themselves for an uncertain future while trying to sustain a fragile sense of hope.
Elsewhere in the MENA region, the film was supported by Sanad and Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation in UAE, Arab Fund for Arts and Culture-AFAC, and Doha Film Institute. In Europe, the film was supported by CNC in France and British Film Institute as well as by funds in Germany and Switzerland.
The film was written by Maysoon Pachachi in collaboration with co-writer Irada Al-Jubori - a Baghdad-based author.
The international cast includes Iraqi actors based inside and outside of Iraq, including Basim Hajar, (Sweden) Meriam Abbas and Ali El Kareem (Germany), and renowned Iraq-based actor Mahmoud Abo Al Abbas. London-based actors Zaydun Khalaf, Amed Hashimi, Labwa Arab and Badia Obaid are also featured in the ensemble cast. Iraqi musical artists involved in the soundtrack for the film include Ehsan Emam and Khyam Allami.
The film is the first international coproduction of a feature written and directed by women of Iraqi origin. Production companies are Oxymoron Films (UK), Linked Productions (Kuwait), Les Contes Modernes (France), and Neue Mediopolis Filmproduktion (Germany). World Sales are handled by The Party Film Sales and MAD Solutions handles the film’s distribution across the Arab world.
Maysoon Pachachi is a London-based filmmaker of Iraqi origin who studied philosophy at University College London and attended London Film School as a student of British director Mike Leigh. She was a documentary and drama film editor and, since 1994, has worked as an independent documentary filmmaker, mostly making films set in the Arab world. Her films include IRANIAN JOURNEY (2000), RETURN TO LAND OF WONDERS (2004) and OUR FEELINGS TOOK THE PICTURES: OPEN SHUTTERS IRAQ (2008), which received a Jury Special Mention at the Arab Film Festival Rotterdam and marked her first collaboration with Irada Al-Jubori, co-writer of OUR RIVER…OUR SKY. In 2004, with her colleague Kasim Abid, she co-founded the Independent Film and Television College, a free-of-charge film-training center in Baghdad, whose students produced 17 short documentaries that were selected in regional and international film festivals and won 14 prizes.
Irada Al-Jubori is an Iraqi writer, researcher, and women's rights activist who has received a master's degree from the Faculty of Fine Arts and obtained a doctoral degree from the Faculty of Information, at the University of Baghdad. Her doctoral thesis was on the image of women in Iraqi cinema from 1946 to 1994. Previously, Al Jubori collaborated with Pachachi on the documentary project OPEN SHUTTERS IRAQ.