Letters from Baghdad – Review

Released – 2016    IMDb Rating – 6.8/10   Genre – Documentary

Portsmouth Film Society Rating – 

“The Queen of the Desert – The woman history erased”.

British explorer Gertrude Bell (1868 – 1926) is brought back to life in Letters from Baghdad, a documentary which also accompanied by Tilda Swinton’s voice-over.

Known widely as the ‘female TE Lawrence’, Gertrude Bell was seen as one of Britains most powerful women in her time and helped to shape Iraq’s destiny after WW1.

Directed by Zeva Oelbaum and Sabine Krayenbühl, Letters from Baghdad is a carefully researched and detailed documentary which takes a look at Gertrude Bell’s journey through Iraq and how she had a hand in establishing the state of Iraq.

All visuals are in black and white, and this matches the wealth of archive footage that is used to tell the story.

Tilda Swinton features throughout using a voice-over and reads extracts from many elegantly written letters sent to her by Gertrude Bell, including stories of exploring the desert and learning new languages such as Farsi and Arabic.

The documentary adopts an interesting snapshot approach to Bell’s career, switching seamlessly between to her childhood, to her later life whilst working in the government, as well as her direct influence within Iraq.

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