My what a treat I’ve had! I'm just returning from a rewarding trip to Nashville where I was invited to screen my film Son of Babylon for the local community as part of the fantastic Film Forward program. I experienced a true 'cultural exchange'...
On my first day I visited OASIS – a non-profit organization serving the area's youth LGBT community – and watched La Mission. This was followed with an eye-opening discussion with the film's director Peter Bratt. It was a truly inspirational and moving talk. I was extremely touched by everything Peter covered in his talk and thrilled to have my work showcased alongside a film that delivers such heart and courage to the much needed voice of America's 'forgotten' people.
Isabelle Stead speaking to audience members at the Belcourt.
The next day we began early at The Watkins College of Art & Design where we held a small and intimate screening of Son of Babylon for undergraduates who offered some very fresh and wise perspectives on the film. In the early evening we ventured to the beautiful Belcourt Theatre where a wonderful audience awaited and we began our first public screening of Son of Babylon. It was lovely to see so much of Nashville's Iraqi community come along. I've seen Son of Babylon so many times now that I'd thought eventually I might become less sensitive to its content, but this is never the case and I became quite emotional when speaking after the screening. After a year's work on the film's associated project Iraq's Missing Campaign, emotions with my team and I are running high as the potential impact of this life-changing information hits home – we are very close to finding answers for Shezad, the film's lead actress, whose husband in real life has been missing for more than 20 years. She was a real personal inspiration for the campaign. As such, the more people I meet who have been affected by tragedies in countries such as Iraq, the more I appreciate the significance of what Mohamed (Director Mohamed Al Daradji) and I have been working for through Son of Babylon and the campaign. Change can and will come.
I am extremely grateful to all members of the Iraqi and Kurdish organizations who came to support the screening, especially to Professor Gundi, who lead a brilliant discussion with great composure, immediately after such an emotional screening. At the center of Son of Babylon is a universal human story which I hope resonates with all who see it, and all who know what it is like to lose a loved one. In this sense, the issues that Peter raised in his film about the street killings in the Mission run parallel to the themes in Son of Babylon concerning the psychological impact of losing loved ones through conflict.
Peter Bratt (Writer/Director of La Mission) and Isabelle Stead (Producer of Son of Babylon) at the Belcourt Theatre.
Some cultural highlights from my 'downtime' in Nashville include: warm conversations with strangers and great food around a huge table at Monell's, sumptuous southern cooking at City House in German Town, honkey tonk bars in downtown, country music, cowboy hats, sheltering from the tornado, and hearing a Kurdish man use the world y'all!
Nashville is a culturally rich and diverse place and my experience there was truly amazing. Thanks Sundance Institute, Film Forward, Peter, Shish Kabab (for yummy desserts at the screening), and of course everyone at the Belcourt Theatre for bringing my film to Nashville and making me and everyone else feel so at home!