1001 Nights in Fairfield / الف ليلة وليلة في فيرفيلد explores a “minor history” of Iraq. The film draws on the similarly titled, enormously popular collection of traditional Middle Eastern tales, bound together by the framing device of Scheherazade’s struggle to prolong her life by entertaining King Shahryār with ever more inventive stories. Shocked by his first wife’s infidelity Shahryār has vowed to take a new wife each day and kill her the next morning to avoid any future possibility of betrayal. Determined to survive Scheherazade, and her sister Dunyazad, collude in telling a series of cliffhangers that gradually entice the King to let her live to complete the tale. Much translated, mistranslated and adapted the cycle of stories have Baghdad as their centre and present a complex way of exploring the connections between Iraq and the Western Sydney suburb of Fairfield.
1001 Nights in Fairfield / الف ليلة وليلة في فيرفيلد combines well known stories from the book with real life stories from members of the Choir of Love, a choir established in Fairfield by Bashar Hanna to assist in the self organisation and cultural survival of recently arrived refugees from Iraq. Discourses on Iraq are often dominated by the War and perceived conflicts between “Islam” and the “West”. This film amplifies the voices of some of Iraq’s minorities, the Chaldean, Armenian, Assyrian and Syriac communities, many of whom live in exile. The music in the film comes from the Iraqi Maqam, a 400 year old musical tradition that emerged from the coffee houses of Baghdad. The Iraqi Maqam has a uniquely multicultural history that intertwines Iraq’s Jewish, Christian and Islamic communities and has been actively used by Iraq’s exiled people’s to tell alternative histories of Iraq.
The film has been produced through a residency at Powerhouse Youth Theatre, Fairfield in partnership with STARTTS (Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors). It will be presented as part of the visual arts project Little Baghdad, in July 2015. Zanny Begg lives in Fairfield, a suburb renown for its large Iraqi population, and has been working with the Choir of Love for the last 12-months.