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Baghdad Twist

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It could be anywhere. A mid-1960s wedding reception captured on Super-8 film. Narrow ties. Bouffant hairdos. Flickering images of a joyful couple and smiling guests. A band plays and people fill the dance floor to do the latest craze: The Twist.

But this is Baghdad. And for the city’s Jewish community, it is an evening of joy during a prolonged period of persecution. Within a few years, most of the wedding guests pictured in the film will have fled the city, never to return. Within a decade, the community, which has existed since Babylonian times, will be all but gone.

For filmmaker Joe Balass and his mother Valentine, a memory is recalled, shared, constructed, from the fragments that remain.

“You were just a little kid. We left the house. You should see it. It’s like someone is still living there. The beds, the tables, the furniture, the food in the fridge—everything. You thought it was a game. You were not even four.”

Baghdad Twist is a visual memoir of one family’s life in Iraq before escaping to a new home in Canada in the fall of 1970. Featuring a never-before-seen collection of archival images, home movies and family photographs from Baghdad, the film pulls back the curtain on Iraq’s once thriving Jewish community, its perilous final years and its remarkable ability to find solace in the shadow of fear.

2007, 33 min 35 s

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