The Iraqi Voices project was initiated and executed in the hopes that the stories would be shared and widely viewed. We enjoyed quite a bit of local exposure with the project, but a couple of weeks ago a surprise effect occurred online, Sarah Kanan’s 3 minute film for Iraqi Voices. “Torn Between” went VIRAL! A large website in Baghdad and a US-Iraq site both picked up the video and the response was immense. The film was viewed in one weekend by over 50,000 people. Sarah was overwhelmed by the outpouring of comments and emotions. Below, she translates and shares with us some of her favorite comments from online viewers:
عاشت ايدج على هذا الفيلم المعبر والمؤثر نتمنى لك العوده لموطنك الأصلي رغم كل الجراحات والدموع والماساة يبقى الوطن عزيز وهو يجمعنا ويغمرنا بمحبته
Bless your soul for this expressive and influential film. I wish you return to your original country of origin… despite all the pain and tears and tragedies, Iraq remains dear in our hearts…it embraces us with love and keeps us together.
ساره تعالي بعد ميتحسن الوضع لان ماريد هذا الجمال الي راسمته ببالج عن الوطن والحب يتلاشه
Sarah, Come back to Iraq when the conditions improve because I don’t want this beautiful picture you’ve drawn in your head about your home country and love to be destroyed.
كلامها عين العقل والفلم جميل. وماكو احد ميحب وطنه. لكن الظروف هي الي جبرته ان يترك وطنه ويعيش بالغربة. لان في العراق كثير من الظروف الي تجبر الشخص ان يترك وطنه ويتغرب ليعيش بأمان وسلام
Her words and the Film are very reasonable and legit…there is no one that doesn’t love their country of origin. However the circumstances are what forced us to leave the homeland and live in exile because in Iraq many of the conditions force the person to leave their motherland and fine refuge in a foreign place in order to live in safety and peace.
فهموني أهلي وآني صغيرة..أن الوطن أم…وكيف اترك أمي وهي مريضه ينهش بيه المرض..أبقى اعالجه واعيش بحضنها اﻻ ان يشاء ربي وتتعافى..والي طلع وهاجر معذور.. ناس تهددو وحاربوهم برزقهم..لكن الي عايش ومحد يمه ليش يعوف أمه..؟
When I was little, my parents taught me that your country of origin is like a mother…and how can I leave my mother when she is sick and being eroded by illness…I stay to treat her and live her chest and pray to god that she gets better….and the ones that left are excused…some were threatened and were attacked for their welfare. But those that lived in Iraq and were not attacked or threatened…why did they leave their mother?
حلو حلو طريقة نقله ﻷحساسه النفسي وصراحته مع ذاته… فلم قصير لكن بي معاني كبيرة ..
Beautiful the way she expressed her psychological emotion and her sense of frankness…a very short film with very big meanings.
الفيلم جميل جدا من حيث التصوير والاخراج ، و ساره كانت فنانة رائعة جسدت الفكرة وادت الرسالة التي تريد ابلاغها من خلال الفيلم حول الغربة والاغتراب ، مايطرحه الفيلم لا يمثل مشكلة ساره فقط ،، انا ايضا عراقي و اعيش في العراق و احمل ثقافتين ايضا ، ثقافة المجتمع العراقي و ثقافة حالمة تولدت في ذهني من خلال قراءتي مفادها ان المجتمعات الغربية تمثل حياة وردية واعدة بمزيد من الحرية . لذا انا ايضا اشعر بالاغتراب حتى وان كنت اعيش في بلدي ، لاني لا املك اي فرصة كي اطرح ارائي بخصوص موضوعات كالدين والسياسة و الحرية الفردية وحقوق المراة فهذه الامور خطوط حمراء غير مسموح بتناولها ومناقشتها في العراق لذا اجد نفسي مغتربا في بلدي ومجتمعي . المشكلة الاكبر هي ان ساره اذا عادت للعراق ربما ستعيش اغترابا اقسى وامر وستعاني كونها تحمل ثقافة غربية مكتسبة ،سارة تحلم بان تعود للعيش في عراق امن ، لكن العراق ليس امنا ، انه بلد تمزقه الصراعات ، وستفتقد ساره فسحة الحرية التي كانت تتمتع بها في اميركا ، في النهاية سارة تعاني ، والكثيرون يعانون مثل سارة ، سارة تحلم ونحن نحلم ، و لابد لنا ان نحلم لان الاحلام تبقى على الامل حيا في النفوس ، والحياة غير ممكنة بدون احلام
Very nice movie in terms of photography and directing, and Sarah was a wonderful artist embodied the idea and portrayed the message she wanted to communicate about alienation and estrangement, the issue presented in the film is not her issue alone, I am also an Iraqi and live in Iraq and carry two cultures….a culture of the Iraqi community and dreamy culture created in my mind through observation of the Western societies which represent a rosy and promising life with more freedom. So I also feel alienated even though I live in my country, because I do not have any opportunity to voice my opinions about topics like religion and politics and individual freedom and women’s rights….such things are red lines that cannot be discussed in Iraq, so I find myself as an expats in my own society and country. The bigger problem is that if Sarah returned to Iraq, she will probably live a much bitter alienation and will suffer because she carries a Western culture acquired over time. Sarah dreams of returning to live in a secure Iraq, but Iraq is not safe, it’s a country torn by conflict, and she will lose her basic freedom which she is enjoying in America…and at the end Sarah still suffers…and many suffer like Sarah, Sarah dreams and we dream, and we must be dream because dreams keep the hope alive in our soul for a better future, and life is not possible without dreams.
ربي يعودكم لدياركم ان شاء الله ينتصر العراق ويكون احلى واحسن من اي وقت وتتصافى القلوب
May God return you to your homes. God willing Iraq will triumph and become sweeter and better than ever and all of the hearts will become pure and unite regardless of differences.
الغربة احساس هذا ……كمامة لابس وانت وردة تشتم من شايف
You know when you smell a rose and you’re wearing a muzzle…that’s what it feels like to live in alienations.
وكفني وعرسي مولدي العراق
جنه بالعراق كل مرض مابينه بس وصلنه للغربه طلعت علينه الأمراض
Iraq is my birth and my wedding and my shroud. When we were in Iraq we were free of illnesses, and the moment we arrived to exile all kinds of illness began showing.
IARP celebrates the art program’s ten-year anniversary at the Susan Hensel Gallery!
Just kitty-corner from the famous Matt’s bar in South Minneapolis, the Susan Hensel Window Gallery will be presenting art works from IARP’s collection of paintings by Karbala and Najaf artists for the month of March.
Working artist, Susan Hensel, known for her practice in combining feminism, community and craft, has set up shop at the corner of 34th and Cedar. Since it’s opening in 2013, the gallery has hosted five to six exhibits each year bringing art, beauty and a sense of place to the community. It is our great honor to be a presenting here this year!
You will notice that the artworks on display are un-stretched and unframed. The decision to present them in this way was made in order to tell a story about the paintings that first came to IARP and began the Iraqi Art Project ten years ago.
“Since 2005 trained, professional artists have sent their work to IARP in hopes of gaining exposure in the United States and communicating what it means to be Iraqi. Over the years these artists have been shown in over fifty galleries and public spaces. IARP’s art program has grown and now includes a documentary video series, a bookmaking program and has developed several curated exhibits that have toured the country. As we approach the ten-year mark since the Iraqi Art Program began we believe that it is only appropriate to highlight some of these paintings and to take a look back upon our humble beginnings. Today we invite you to enjoy a sampling from our collection.”
See these works for yourself!
March 5th until April15th.
Susan Hensel Gallery. 3441 Cedar Avenue South 55407.
Thoughts from Board Member, Steve Clemens… On NOT Seeing American Sniper Movie
I have chosen not to see Clint Eastwood’s new “blockbuster” film, American Sniper, for several reasons: I don’t wish to add to the sales figures which continue to make it the #1 movie at the box office for 3 weeks running; I rarely spend $6-12 for a first-run movie, waiting until it comes to my local neighborhood theater for $2 senior rate; but, more importantly, what this movie symbolizes to my Iraqi friends.
When I traveled back to Iraq for the first time since going to Baghdad in December of 2002 as part of a Peace Team, the people I met in Najaf, Karbala, and Babil (Babylon) in November of 2012 were happy to greet an unarmed American – and they told us so. Unarmed, coming not to conquer nor correct but rather to connect and communicate face-to-face. Not looking through the scope of a rifle for potential targets but rather mingling with the masses in the souk, at the Shrines to their revered ancestors and leaders, and at the universities and grade schools. Looking there, instead of finding “insurgents” I found inquisitive people eager to engage me as a potential friend and partner.
Yes, I must admit I also encountered some bitterness and disgust at what some had felt was directly linked to the American invasion and the long military “occupation” which followed. Some of my Iraqi friends think many of the corrupt and ineffectual politicians now running their nation were put in place or funded by – or at least took advantage of the chaos created by – the American military intervention. Many of my Iraqi friends, while having no love lost for the departure of Saddam Hussein, see the present conflict arising between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims as being a result of a divide-and-conquer strategy by America and it’s principal ally, Israel.
So a U.S. movie which doesn’t bother to take the time to explain WHY a patriotic Iraqi might become an “insurgent” to fight against a foreign invader trying to put in place a government in his/her own nation – but instead has as its flawed “hero” someone whose autobiography calls all Iraqis “savages” … Well it isn’t hard to connect the dots to see how American Sniper will not help us work for the needed reconciliation between Iraqis and Americans.
Ironically, all the controversy surrounding this movie might serve as a good reminder to Americans that all too often wants to “move on” to the next event-of-the-day (or week or month) that those on the receiving end of the American Empire don’t have the luxury of moving on when infrastructure and relationships remain tattered and broken for most of our Iraqi friends.
Posted by Steve Clemens
You are invited to join us for a premiere event, a screening of 6 short films and discussion with the filmmakers.
Dessert and Coffee reception to follow.
When: Tues. December 2, 2014, 7:00 pm
Where: Macalester College, 1600 Grand Ave, St Paul, 55105 / Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center, Lower Level
Iraqi Voices is an ongoing collaborative mentorship program that gives Iraqis in Minnesota support and training to transform their stories into high-quality documentary video shorts. The films are written and directed by Iraqi-American participants and are photographed and edited by Nathan Fisher.
Hosted by the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project in partnership with MacHOPE (Macalester Helping Open Peaceful Exchange).
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
Event is free; donations welcomed.
More info… join our Facebook Event Page here.
For the past several months, IARP has collaborated with filmmaker Nathan Fisher on Iraqi Voices, a collaborative mentorship program that gives Iraqis in Minnesota support and training to produce documentary videos. The videos tell the Iraqis’ stories of coping with war and dislocation.
We need your help to tell these courageous stories and support all of our work for reconciliation. Please consider scheduling a donation for November 13, Give to the Max Day. Your donation will amplify the voices of Iraqi refugees and help broadcast their messages to Americans.
All donations will be matched up to $2500 by IARP’s Board of Directors and will support our other work for reconciliation: supporting Iraqi women and peacemakers, providing clean water to Iraqi schools, arts and cultural exhibitions, and professional exchanges between Iraqis and Americans.
Give to the Max Day was created in 2009 to launch GiveMN, a collaborative venture led by Minnesota Community Foundation. In just 24 hours, Give to the Max Day raises about $14 million for Minnesota-based nonprofits every year.
All donations on November 13, Give to the Max Day, will be matched up to $2750 by IARP’s Board of Directors. Support IARP on Give to the Max Day and receive the following (all of these rewards are optional):
Donation of $25 or more: Invitation to our VIP reception on December 2nd with Iraqi refugee filmmakers, to be held at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Donation of $50 or more: The above, plus a 12×18 poster of the films, signed by the Iraqi filmmakers.
Donation of $100 or more: All of the above, plus you will receive a DVD of all of the Iraqi films (great for hosting a screening get-together with your friends or colleagues!).
Donation of $250 or more:All of the above, plus your name will be listed in the credits of the films produced by Iraqi refugees, IARP, and filmmaker Nathan Fisher.
New series of Films by IARP and Local Iraqi Refugees to be shown at 9th Annual Twin Cities Arab Film Festival
For the past 6 months, filmmaker Nathan Fisher and IARP have worked with Iraqi refugees and immigrants in Minnesota on a collaborative mentorship program to produce videos telling their stories. The guiding principle has been to allow the Iraqi filmmakers to tell their own stories and to focus on what they want to tell Americans.
A selection of the films will be featured at Mizna’s upcoming 9th Annual Twin Cities Arab Film Festival, to be held from November 6 to 9 at the St. Anthony Main Theater in Minneapolis. For more information about the festival, click here.
IARP will host an official premier of all of the films as a screening, discussion and reception with the filmmakers on December 2 at 7:00 at Macalester College in St. Paul. Watch for more information to come soon.
The filmmaking project with Iraqi refugees and immigrants builds on IARP’s previous work with Iraqis in Minnesota. To view previous books and short films produced by Iraqis, IARP, filmmaker Nathan Fisher, the Veterans Book Project, and The Advocates for Human Rights, click here.
Support for this project has been generously provided by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.
See images below of their recent activities in Minneapolis:
*This story was written by Irene Gibson, who interned with IARP in the summer of 2013. The story exemplifies the personal ties and friendships between Americans and Iraqis that IARP supports.
Recently I had the pleasure of visiting Shayma and her beautiful family, refugees from Iraq who recently arrived in Minnesota.
Shayma opened the door to the house even before I could knock. Greeting me with hugs and kisses, she eagerly introduced me to her husband, Mohammed, and oldest daughter, Ayat (16). Shayma proudly showed me around the house, and Doha (8) and Malik (6) showed me their letter books and homework. Malik brought me a small pumpkin, placed it in the fridge, and explained in detail exactly how she was going to cook it later. Eventually Shayma, Mohammad, and the oldest brother Hussein (17) sat with me to drink tea and discuss life in Minnesota.
When I tell people I visited a household of Iraqi refugees, most think of the differences: clothes, food, language. But this family wasn’t foreign to me; the familiar chaos of family life and the feeling of a home were unmistakable. Shayma attempted the impossible task of wrangling her children. Mohammed talked about looking for a job as a mechanic. Hussein worried about learning a new language in school. Ayat watched over the little ones. Ali (8) wanted to impress everyone with new words he had learned. Malik bounced around crazily and loved the extra attention. This family shared the joys of daily life, the ordinary triumphs and trials found in every family.
And yet despite the commonalities between this family and my own, I also felt the difficulties of everyday life. Children struggling in school, parents working to understand supermarkets, and other small aspects of life I often take for granted. Upon my departure Shayma made me promise I would return – largely out of kindness and caring, but also, I sensed, out of a small desperation.
Shayma had mentioned earlier that being a refugee in the US was difficult, and I empathized. Living in a new country can often be lonely and overwhelming, and so I promised to return as soon as I could. We share a great deal already. It will be my pleasure to spend more time with this family and to nurture the ties of friendship and a sense of belonging in this new place they now call home.