The art a country both consumes and produces can be a window in the national soul. In recent years Iraqis have exhibited a taste for action movies, a result of decades of conflict. The tide, it seems, may be changing. A new generation of young people in the country prefer comedy and sci-fi over blood and guts.
Bashar Nouri, proprietor of one of Baghdad’s best-known DVD stores, says: “Young people used to prefer action or crime movies, having grown up in this society that has been so harsh and violent in recent years.
“Now Iraqi youths are leaning towards other genres, such as drama, comedy and mystery, to escape scenes of violence and blood.”
Ahmed Ali, 26, is one of those whose tastes have evolved. “Not long ago, I preferred action movies, especially those featuring actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jason Statham. But with everything that has happened in Iraq – sectarian conflicts, ISIL – I grew to hate them, and started to watch comedy and films that deal with social issues.”
Ahmed keeps abreast of the latest releases by watching them online when possible. “I catch them on the internet every now and then, though the connection can be very slow, which spoils the fun.
“Seeing the movies we want is not hard anymore, because we have DVD stores and websites, as well as the cinema. The cinema for me is a chance to escape my internet and computer obsession, and watching movies in a theatre is great,” added the political science student.
Akram Hussein, who is studying a masters in physics, has unsurprising taste. “I’ve loved science fiction since I was a child. I don’t watch action or war movies, unless they are about a historical or an Iraq-related event, like some which feature Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and George Clooney.”
Akram says that when he has time, he likes the small screen as well. “I watch American TV series that deal with science, I enjoy the creative experiments in this field. I go to the cinema every now and then, but not on a weekly or a monthly basis because of my work and studies, so I either buy DVDs or watch them on the internet.”
In a connected society, which has a long-established black market in bootleg videos, online piracy is threatening Bashar’s business.
“The internet invasion has 100% affected us, as most people are now using the internet to watch movies.”
He faces pressure from the legitimate market as well: “Another factor that has affected our work is the opening of cinemas in Baghdad. Cinemas, though, are a good thing for Baghdad and I encourage them even if it affects our business.”