A Tale of Three Brothers: Ezra, Me’ir, and Hayyawi Sawda’i and a History of Cinema in Iraq – Pelle Valentin Olsen, University of Oslo, Norway
April 5 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
This talk investigates the historical entanglement of capital, culture, and leisure by mapping the local Iraqi capitalist and entrepreneurial elites, many of whom were upper-class Iraqi Jews with international outlooks, who invested in exhibition and production technology. In the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, the Iraqi Jewish Sawda’i family pioneered the construction of cinemas, import of films, and established Iraq’s first film studio, Studio Baghdad. Examining the history of Iraqi cinema and film production and distribution through the Sawda’i family brings into focus many of the elements that characterized the mediums early history in Iraq, including the importance of family businesses, minority networks, the dominance of Hollywood, and the many networks and affiliations that tied Iraq to Europe, the US, India, and the Middle East. Finally, it is also an opportunity to complicate the way in which later national narratives of Iraqi cinema have obscured the role of those with hybrid identities, including the Sawda’i family.
Pelle Valentin Olsen is a cultural and social historian of the modern Middle East. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago (2020). His research examines the history of leisure, cultural production, education, gender, and sexuality in twentieth-century Iraq. On the basis of his dissertation, Pelle is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Idle Days and Nights: Leisure, Time, and Modernity in Iraq. In 2020–2, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the Global Studies at Roskilde University, Denmark. Currently, he is a Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oslo, Norway. His work has appeared in edited volumes as well as in Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, Arab Studies Journal, Journal of Palestine Studies, Middle East Critique, Regards, Journal of Arabic Literature, Journal of Social History and elsewhere.
Sponsored by the Film and Media Studies Department, the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, and the History Department.