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The first Independent Iraqi Film Festival launches online | News



The first edition of the Independent Iraqi Film Festival (IIFF) featuring Iraqi movie-makers kicks off on Friday and runs for a week. Thirteen films will be streamed online on its website free of charge.

The festival opens with a documentary by prominent director Mohammed al-Daradji, Iraq: War, Love, God and Madness (2008), which tells the story of the ordeal he went through while shooting his film Ahlaam (2005) in Baghdad, just months after the US invasion of Iraq.

The only non-virtual event in the festival programme will take place at Curzon Soho cinema in London, where the feature film Baghdad in My Shadow (2019) of Swiss-Iraqi director Samir will be screened on the closing night.

“This year, due to the virus, we are all in really difficult situation as filmmakers. The cinemas are closed, the festivals are closed. It was a really wonderful opportunity to show my film in this online festival,” Samir, who only goes by his first name, told Al Jazeera. “Doing a special event in London is a relief for me as a filmmaker.”

The festival selection includes short and feature-length fiction films and documentaries by established and emerging Iraqi directors based in Iraq and the diaspora. The programme has two strands of short films dedicated to new-wave filmmaking and to contemporary feminism in Iraqi cinema.

‘Operating independently’

The festival is an independent initiative by four Iraqis living in the diaspora: Ahmed al-Habib, founder of the shakomakonet digital platform; Israa al-Kamali, an Iraqi writer and poet; Shahnaz Dulaimy, a feature-film editor; and Roisin Tapponi, an editor, curator and founder of the Habibi collective.

The organisers say they refused funding from various establishments and did not seek affiliations with private or public institutions in order to retain full creative freedom.

“There is a huge benefit in operating independently. If you work with institutions in the region, you become prone to their politics and that can extend to geoblocking or censorship,” Tapponi told Al Jazeera.

According to the organisers, the film festival is meant to help develop the identity of the emerging post-2003 Iraqi cinema, give platforms to Iraqi filmmakers, and break stereotypes.

“[There is] a lot of misrepresentation of Iraqis in media and film, and even in the region by Arab filmmakers. It could be [because of] lack of research and sometimes it could be [because of] stereotypes and racism,” al-Kamali told Al Jazeera.

“I think that is what is great about this festival, we are bringing [two] groups: people in Iraq, telling stories about Iraq, their experiences in Iraq, as well as people in the diaspora.”

A still from She Was Not Alone (2020) by director Hussein al-Asadi [Courtesy of IIFF]

Making films in Iraq

One of the young filmmakers featured in the festival is 23-year-old Hussein al-Asadi, who lives and works in Iraq. Al-Asadi said he had to quit school in order to work for a living because of the difficult economic situation in his country.

He got into filmmaking at the age of 17, helping out with various local film projects. In 2019, he directed his first short film, Eye of the Mountain, and earlier this year, he completed She Was Not Alone, which will be featured at the festival.

She Was Not Alone tells the story of an elderly woman who lives by herself in the marshes of the Tigris and Euphrates River deltas. She is part of the “Marsh Arabs” community, whose culture and livelihood are tightly linked to the unique ecosystem of Iraq’s wetlands.

“My dream is to make films that express the suffering of my people so that the world knows how we Iraqis live,” al-Asadi told Al Jazeera.

Although he has a passion for filmmaking, he said it is a difficult profession to pursue in Iraq.

“The biggest problems I have faced are related to production and financial support,” he said. Like other Iraqi filmmakers, he said he has not benefitted from state funds allocated to film production, which disappear because of bureaucratic corruption. In order to support himself and fund his filmmaking, he has had to go into advertising.

Conservative currents in Iraqi society and the insecurity in the country have also affected him as an artist. The southern Iraqi city of Basra, where al-Asadi is based, has seen a number of recent assassinations.

On Wednesday, Reham Yaqoub, a prominent activist, women’s rights advocate and doctor, was shot. The same day, another activist, Falah al-Hasnawi, who has participated in anti-government protests, was also assassinated along with his fianacee.

“Social pressure accompanied by the security chaos result in harsh censorship on creativity. Just having ideas and opinions that are different than those of the general public puts us, artists, at constant risk. We constantly feel unsafe,” al-Asadi said.

He hopes the IIFF will open the door for the younger generation of Iraqi filmmakers he is part of to wider audiences and attract more support for Iraq’s film industry. 

Follow Mariya Petkova on Twitter: @mkpetkova

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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