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Tweetable Logline: A documentary on Gertrude Bell, the most powerful woman in the British Empire, who drew Iraq's borders before disappearing from history
Elevator Pitch: Letters from Baghdad tells the dramatic story of British-born Gertrude Bell, sometimes referred to as the female Lawrence of Arabia. An adventurer, spy, archaeologist and powerful political force, she was recruited by British Military Intelligence to help reshape the Middle East after World War I.
She drew the borders of Iraq, helped install its first king and established the Baghdad Museum of Antiquities which was infamously looted during the 2003 American invasion. She advocated for Iraqi self-rule and openly criticized colonial policy. The circumstances of her death by an overdose of sleeping pills at age 58 remains a mystery.
We are Zeva Oelbaum and Sabine Krayenbühl, the founding partners of Between the Rivers Productions. We started working together 6 years ago on a film about another extraordinary woman, journalist Ruth Gruber. Zeva produced that film and Sabine was the editor. We discovered that we have the same sensibility, and that we collaborate incredibly well. When we found out that we both loved the story of Gertrude Bell, we decided to embark on making LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD. Sabine is an ACE award nominated editor who edited over 20 feature documentaries including Academy award-nominated MY ARCHITECT, MAD HOT BALLROOM, and MY REINCARNATION. Zeva is an award-winning producer whose film, AHEAD OF TIME, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, was broadcast on Showtime Channel and won 5 Best Documentary awards. Zeva came to film from a career in still photography and her work has been extensively published and exhibited.
Our combined films have screened theatrically, at every major international festival, and have broadcast on networks including HBO, Showtime, PBS, ARTE, and BBC.
About the Production: As female filmmakers, we are intrigued with the choices that trail-blazing women must make. What was it like to be a woman ahead of her time? What was it like to be a powerful woman, when other women were powerless?
Our film could not be more timely, in light of the current events in Middle East and at the 100th anniversary of WWI, when the world is reexamining the impact of colonialism and ongoing Western policies in the region. The decisions Gertrude Bell and her colleagues made changed the geopolitical map of the world and still affect the region today.
Current Status: Fundraising for archival footage digitzation
For more information and to support this project: Kickstarter Page