On the Banks of the Tigris: the hidden story of Iraqi music

2015, 79 mins, HD, stereo, Producer/Director: Marsha Emerman

When Majid Shokor escaped from Iraq he discovered that the songs he loved as a child in Baghdad have a hidden history.  To find out more, Majid makes a bold journey from Australia to Israel, Europe and Iraq to meet Iraqi musicians, hear their music and stories, and unite them in a concert for peace and reconciliation.

*  Featuring: Majid Shokor, Ahmed Mukhtar, Yair Dalal, Farida and the Iraqi Maqam Ensemble. Editor: Lucy Paplinska, Production Co-ordinator: Merran Williams, Cinematography: Sander Snoep, Philippe Bellaiche, Peter Zakharov, Hayder Daffar, Sound: Jan Wouter Stam, Tully Chen, Bob Phelps, Richard Merrick

* BEST DOCUMENTARY, Baghdad International Film Festival
* AUDIENCE CHOICE, Arab Film Festival, San Francisco/Los Angeles
* FINALIST, BEST DOCUMENTARY, Social & Political Issues, ATOM Awards, Australia
* BEST DIRECTOR, DOCUMENTARY, Nepal Human Rights International Film Festival


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Screenings & Awards


BEST DOCUMENTARY - Baghdad International Film Festival

AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD - Arab Film Festival, San Francisco & Los Angeles

FINALIST, BEST DOCUMENTARY, Social & Political Issues - ATOM Awards, Australia

BEST DIRECTOR (DOCUMENTARY), Nepal Human Rights International Film Festival



Montreal World Film Fesitval, World premiere

Baghdad International Film Festival

Global Peace Film Festival, USA premiere

Arab Film Festival, San Francisco & Los Angeles

Jewish International Film Festival, Australian premiere

Boston Jewish Film Festival

Ahbab Festival, Cambridge, UK

Washington Jewish Film Festival

Re-Orient, Stockholm, Sweden

JW3, London, UK

New York Sephardic Film Festival

St. Petersburg Arab Film Festival, Russia

Nepal Human Rights International Film Festival

Krakow Festival of Jewish Culture, Poland

Los Angeles Sephardic Film Festival


Other screenings

Lido Cinema, Hawthorn, Vic - 3 week season

Cameo Cinema, Belgrave, Vic

Mornington Cinema, Mornington, Vic

Mercury Cinema, Adelaide, SA

Theatre Royale Cinema, Castlemaine, Vic

Star Cinema, Eaglehawk, Vic

Iraqi Association London, UK

New Haven Public Library, Mid-East Film Series, New Haven, Conn, USA

Gemco Theatre, Emerald, Vic

Temple Beth Israel, Eugene, Oregon

Karim Wasfi Center for Creativity, Peace Through Arts, Baghdad, Iraq, details tba

Daylesford Rex Cinema, Hobart - details tba


Exclusive Cinema Release, Lido Cinemas, Melbourne

From March 10-31, On the Banks of the Tigris had a successful 3-week run at Melbourne's newest arthouse multiplex.  The sold-out opening night featured a special performance by oud virtuoso Joseph Tawadros.

Winner, Best Documentary, Baghdad International Film Festival

On the Banks of the Tigris was awarded lst prize in the Documentary Competition at the Baghdad International Film Festival. We are very honoured to receive this award for our story of music, peace and reconciliation. http://www.baghdadfilmfest.com/pages/winners2015

Australian Premiere at Jewish International Film Festival (JIFF)

Australian premiere screenings of On the Banks of the Tigris will be held in Sydney- Nov 8, 4:15 pm and Melbourne- Nov 12, 7:00 pm & Nov 15, 3:45 pm. Q & A with filmmakers hosted by authors Joseph Wakim in Sydney and Arnold Zable in Melbourne.  Tickets:http://www.jiff.com.au/films/banks-tigris-hidden-story-iraqi-music/

Tigris Nominated for Best Documentary - Social & Political Issues

Top news!  On the Banks of the Tigris is a Finalist for Best Documentary - Social & Political Issues in the ATOM Awards, given annually by the Australian Teachers of Media.http://atomawards.org/2015-tert…/on-the-banks-of-the-tigris/

Official Selection - Arab Film Festival, San Francisco

On the Banks of the Tigris “unearths vital history” says Deana Nassar, Artistic Director of the 19th Arab Film Festival, October 16-25 in San Francisco.  Our film has been invited to screen with other works 'that provide insight into the beauty, complexity and diversity of the Arab world.” http://aff2015.arabfilmfestival.org/films/on-the-banks-of-the-tigris/

Global Peace Film Festival - USA premiere

On the Banks of the Tigris has been selected to screen in the 13th Global Peace Film Festival, Sept 28–Oct 4 in Orlando, Florida. This wonderful festival “shows films across genres that explore peace, social justice, and can be catalysts for change.” https://www.facebook.com/PeaceFilmFest

World Premiere - Montreal World Film Festival

On the Banks of the Tigris will have its world premiere screening at the 39th Montreal World Film Festival (Festival des Films du Monde) in Canada, August 27 - September 7, 2015.  The goal of the festival is “to encourage cultural diversity and understanding between nations and foster the cinema of all continents.” https://www.facebook.com/FFMMontreal


Read archived news


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Music clip

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Magnificent!  A rich array of personalities and music. - ABC Radio National

A much needed film that crosses boundaries, uncovers hidden story, and brings home universal truths
Arnold Zable, author 'Violin Lessons', 'The Fig Tree', 'Jewels and Ashes' and many others.

Riveting, moving, joyful and sad. Everything rang so deeply true – Anna Epstein, Curator and Editor

This re-examination of Iraqi-Jewish heritage unearths vital history – Deana Nassar, Artistic Director, Arab Film Festival

A nuanced and sympathetic view of the deep, intertwined roots of Muslim and Jewish people in Iraq – Kelly DeVine, Artistic Director, Global Peace Film Festival

Excellent! A fabulous story of cultural resilience and identity – Robyn Sloggett, Professor and Director, Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne


On the Banks of the Tigris to Deliver Hidden History, Daily Emerald, 18 November, 2016

Hidden Story of Iraq's Music Hits Big Screen in Bendigo, Bendigo Advertiser, 21 May 2016

Songs of Sadness, Songs of Love: Marsha Emerman's 'On the Banks of the Tigris', Metro Magazine Issue 188 (2016), by Brian Yatman

The Jewish Origins of Iraqi Music, ABC Radio National interview with Marsha Emerman and Majid Shokor on 'The Drawing Room, 29 February 2016

Iraqi Doco to Screen at Cinema, Progress Leader, 23 February, 2016

Tracing Iraqi Music Roots Ranges Trader, 23 November 2015

Hidden Origins of Iraqi Music, ABC RN interview on 'The Music Show', 8 November 2015

Forgotten Origins of Iraqi Music Celebrated in Award-Winning Doco
The Age, 30 October 2015, by Michael Dwyer

Documentary traces the forgotten history of Iraqi music
The Conversation, 30 October 2015, by Robyn Sloggett

The Hidden Story of Iraqi Music Review, Middle East Monitor, 2015, by Emanuelle Esposti

Iraqi Music and Peace Film Finished  AJDS News, December 2014

Remembering Baghdad, Arab Review, by Siba Aldabbagh, 2012

The Ballads of Baghdad  Australian Jewish News, 10 October 2008

Harmonies in Old Iraq   The Age, 22 September 2007

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Click to Enlarge

Ahmed Mukhtar (visit website)

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Yair Dalal and Majid (visit website)

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Farida Mohammad Ali (visit website)

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Abraham Salman

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Alber Elias

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Elias Shasha

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Majid films in Baghdad

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Iraqi Chanting Group

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Iraqi musicians in rehearsal

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Majid interviews Afifa Iskander

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Looking out on the Tigris River

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On the Baghdad booksellers street

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Read a full list of links

This film was developed with the assistance of Film Victoria and funded with the assistance of Creative Partnerships Australia, Documentary Australia Foundation and the San Francisco Film Society.   Thank you to: Australian Communities Foundation - Dennoch Fund,  Harold Mitchell Foundation, Shark Island Documentary Fund, Graham Smith Peace Foundation, Besen Family Foundation,  Finkel Foundation, Search Foundation, Annamila Foundation, Victorian Multicultural Commission, and many generous individual donors. 


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