Letters from Baghdad PG (S)
Voiced by Tilda Swinton, this fascinating documentary explores the extraordinary life of "the female Lawrence of Arabia" - English writer, archaeologist, diplomat and spy Gertrude Bell - the most powerful woman in the British Empire in her day.
As a young woman she travelled extensively throughout the Middle East, from Palestine to Syria to Iraq (then Mesopotamia), producing maps and scholarly works and becoming fluent in Arabic and Persian. Her talents eventually recognised by British Military Intelligence, she wielded significant political power in British Imperial policy across the Middle East - the only woman to do so - working closely with tribal Arabs to help soldiers move across the desert during World War I.
Openly critical of colonialism, the film shows how her work offered a counterpoint to typical British all-male colonial power; and that her ideas about the future of the region were in many cases stunningly prescient.
Bell's story is told entirely in her own words and that of her contemporaries (including TE Lawrence and Vita Sackville-West), excerpted from their intimate letters, private diaries and official documents. A unique look at both a remarkable woman and the tangled history of Iraq.