Letters from Baghdad

  • Sabine Krayenbühl, Zeva Oelbaum
  • United States, France
  • 2016
  • 95 min
  • Dutch Premiere
  • Panorama
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The archeologist Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell (1868-1926) was an independent spirit from a young age. She studied at Oxford, smoked cigarettes and regularly took the Tube, but this was just the beginning of her journey of discovery. As a young archaeologist she traveled throughout the Middle East, making records of the many tribes and cultures she encountered along the way. Her knowledge proved invaluable after World War I, when the borders of this complex region were being redrawn. Letters from Baghdad is her story in her own words, drawn from the many letters she wrote home, which are read aloud by actress Tilda Swinton. The epic tale of this archaeologist, explorer, political force and spy is also told through historical footage, Bell’s own photographs, secret documents and the accounts of her contemporaries, who speak variously in warm, humorous and critical tones about this “female Lawrence of Arabia.” The consequences of Bell’s actions still echo loudly in daily news reports from the Middle East.


  • 95 min
  • black and white
  • DCP
  • Spoken languages: English
  • Subtitles in: English
Sabine Krayenbühl, Zeva Oelbaum
Zeva Oelbaum for Between The Rivers Productions
Executive producer
Thelma Schoonmaker, Tilda Swinton, Elizabeth Chandler, Denise Benmosche
YUZU Productions, Missing In Action Film
Petr Hlinomaz
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Dutch Premiere

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IDFA history