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Wednesday, October 11, 2017
6:30 PM


Oriental Institute, Breasted Hall


Free with registration

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Oriental Institute


Letters from Baghdad is the story of a true original—Gertrude Bell (1868–1926)—sometimes called the “female” Lawrence of Arabia. Voiced and executive produced by Academy award winning actor Tilda Swinton, the documentary tells the dramatic story of this British spy, explorer and political powerhouse. Bell traveled widely in Arabia before being recruited by British military intelligence to help draw the borders of Iraq after WWI. Using never-seen-before footage of the region, the film chronicles Bell’s extraordinary journey into both the uncharted Arabian desert and the inner sanctum of British male colonial power. With unique access to documents from the Iraq National Library and Archive and Gertrude Bell’s own 1600 letters, the story is told entirely in the words of the players of the day, excerpted verbatim from intimate letters, private diaries and secret communiqués. It is a unique look at both a remarkable woman and the tangled history of Iraq. The film takes us into a past that is eerily current.

A discussion with the filmmakers Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum, led by McGuire Gibson, Professor of Mesopotamian Archaeology, will follow the screening.