The inaugural "Eye of Baghdad" film festival ended Tuesday (February 28th), an event that showcased films focusing on human rights issues.
The four-day festival featured both feature and documentary films covering three areas of human rights including violence against women, children's rights, and freedom of expression.
"The festival is considered a major experiment because it was the first time the country organised a film festival that focused on human rights issues," said Mufeed al-Jazayeri, chairman of the festival's organising committee.
"Because of its dramatic treatment of various human issues and problems, cinema can play a major role in delivering positive messages about these issues in an artistic way which offers both enjoyment and educational value at the same time," he said.
"We tried to use cinematic art as an educational tool and as a way to increase awareness about human rights and the principles which call for justice, equality, tolerance, and peaceful co-existence," al-Jazayeri said.
He said the messages in the films focused on basic issues such as renouncing all types of violence, combating segregation against women, guaranteeing children's rights, bolstering free expression of opinions and ideas, promoting acceptance of others, and fostering dialogue inside societies.
He said 11 documentary and feature films -- from Iraq, Egypt, Palestinian Territories, the United States, Afghanistan and Russia -- were shown at the festival.
"During the festival, we had discussion forums about the topics addressed in the films where researchers, intellectuals, and academics participated," al-Jazayeri said.
"The purpose of the forums was to discuss ways to improve human rights and raise awareness, particularly about understanding international conventions and agreements that are relevant to human rights that explain the nature of those rights, their importance, and how to defend them," he said.
Hind al-Qaisi, head of public relations for the festival, said the event was supported by the Iraqi Society in Support of Culture, the Independent College for Cinema and Television, UNICEF, UNESCO, and the Needy People organisation, based in the Czech Republic.
She said the organising committee received 120 submissions from local and foreign filmmakers. The films were reviewed, and 11 were judged appropriate for the festival's three major themes. Al-Qaisi reviewed some of the films which were shown at the festival.
"There was an Afghani film titled 'Enemies of Happiness' which tells the story of an Afghani woman who made her way to parliament despite all the challenges she faced," she said. "There was an American film titled 'Um Sari', which was about an Iraqi lady who was striving to treat her AIDS-infected son, and a Palestinian film titled 'First Love' which was about three Palestinian girls living under extremely adverse conditions."
"Other films were shown that highlighted violations committed against children such as an Egyptian film called 'Live Skin' that addressed the suffering of children who are forced to do harmful jobs. An Iraqi film, 'Cola' was about a little girl who works at a trash dump, and the Russian film 'Children of the Leningrad Sky Station' sheds light on homeless children," he said.
The festival's final day was devoted to films about freedom of expression, the most prominent of which was an Iraqi film titled 'Sing Your Song' which was directed Omar Falah and produced by the Independent Cinema and Television College.
Kamil Ameen, spokesman for the Ministry of Human Rights, praised the festival's sponsors and organisers and called the festival a positive event.
"We need sponsorship for these film festivals that draw attention to human rights issues and the problems linked to them in order to promote the adoption of measures at legal and executive levels to find appropriate solutions for them," he said.
Ameen said the ministry "participated in discussion forums held during the festival where working papers were presented focusing on how to overcome all the obstacles that weaken human rights and how to confront those obstacles with all possible means".