Letters from Baghdad (2016)

TV-PG   |    |  Documentary

Letters from Baghdad (2016) Poster

Gertrude Bell, the most powerful woman in the British Empire in her day, shaped the destiny of Iraq after WWI in ways that still reverberate today.

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Sabine Krayenbühl , Zeva Oelbaum

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26 August 2017 | clarkj-565-161336
| Lonely Planet
Long before there were guide books and people trekked through the Middle East, Gertrude Bell travelled on a camel through desert areas only inhabited by roving bandit chieftains. She kept meticulous notes of the various tribes, their relationships, and even carried an expensive transit/theodolite. She developed a very strong attachment to the area and its peoples. This was an age of great exploration, witness Col. Fawcett exploring the Amazon. What all these explorers developed was an intense and passionate interest in the places they visited. They learned the languages and studied the habits of the people.

The directors tell the story of Gertrude Bell's time in Mesopotamia or modern day Iraq through her many letters. They are absolutely fascinating in that not only is her interior life and feelings revealed, but a good deal of information about the political and social conditions in the empire at that time. I believe the directors were smart to stick to the letters and make them the focus of the story. The documentary is brilliant in what it doesn't say. The viewer can make up their own minds, the information is pretty overwhelming. What I found most fascinating were the monuments and historical objects that were uncovered. They indicate far earlier and complex civilizations that had a grasp of our place in nature and in the cosmos. Bell went to great lengths to establish a museum to preserve these artifacts to man's origin. Curiously both T. E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell both had rather violent ends. One by an untimely motorcycle accident and the other by an overdose.

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