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Movie Must See – With A Female Director and An Authentic, Female Led Cast, “Pomegranate” Is First Ever Iraqi American Narrative Feature Film

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It won’t be long until you can finally watch the first ever Iraqi American narrative feature film – and you should.  

“Pomegranate” first came to life as a compelling script that was selected as a quarterfinalist by Francis Coppola’s Zoetrope. 

Later it was turned into a novel.

Finally, it became a film.  

It’s a story as spellbinding as it is important – the tale of a young Iraqi Muslim refugee’s journey to her independence.  

Behind it all is renowned Iraqi American author Weam Namou.

She was born in Baghdad “to an ancient lineage called the Chaldeans – Neo-Babylonians who still speak Aramaic and trace their roots to Prophet Abraham,” she explains. Her family came to America when she was just ten years old. Today she is based in metro Detroit, where she serves as the Executive Director of the Chaldean Cultural center. In fact, she tells the story of her often overlooked community in her recent book, Little Baghdad, named after the nickname of a neighborhood in Sterling Heights, Michigan.  

To date, two of Namou’s books have been made into films; one a feature documentary and now, Pomegranate, making history as the first Iraqi-American narrative feature film. 

“Pomegranate is the first Iraqi-American narrative film led by a creative team from the community being portrayed, specifically with a female writer/director and female-leading cast.” 

The movie tells a fascinating story: “In the weeks before the election of Donald Trump in 2016, a young, politically liberal, Iraqi, Muslim immigrant struggles to find her footing in a neighborhood of well-to-do, politically conservative, Iraqi, Christians while battling her family’s fears of deprivation and demands of loyalty to Muslim traditions.” 

Recently, Entertainment Monthly had the opportunity to sit down with the filmmaker. The following is a segment from our exclusive conversation: 

What led you to tell this story, and what was the most difficult thing about the writing?

“The 2016 U.S. presidential elections caused much tension between Democrats and Republicans, but there was a deeper layer of tension between the Iraqi Christian community (Chaldeans and Assyrians) and the Muslim community in Michigan. These tensions began when in 2014, ISIS attacked and destroyed the Iraqi Christian’s ancestral villages in Iraq, causing havoc and emptying the land of its indigenous people. A year later, the Muslim community in Michigan wanted to build a third mosque in Sterling Heights, a city which has the largest population of Chaldeans in Michigan, many of who had fled Islamic persecution in Iraq. The mosque was met with controversial opposition from the community, prompting federal Intervention. When Trump ran for presidency in 2016, the Chaldean and Assyrian communities banded together to vote him in. That was their retaliation, some suppose. But they also believed he would be a good president for the economy and the Christians. He would protect them, they thought, and help them gain security and rights in the Nineveh Plains in Iraq, the areas that were taken over by ISIS. It was disturbing to see all the quarreling and animosity that surfaced during that time. Since having a discussion was out of the question (everyone was just too passionate, angry, or even hostile to engage in a sensible conversation), I decided to gather my creative energy and write a story that highlighted the beautiful side of the Arab and Chaldean world. The leading characters would be women, smart women, and the story would encompass the realistic daily challenges they face.” 

What was the most challenging thing about turning the book into a movie?

I first wrote the story as a feature script, which was selected as a quarterfinalist by Francis Coppola’s Zoetrope. This resulted in collaborations with others in the film industry, including Buffalo 8 in Santa Monica, California, casting director Sam Sako, and executive producer Scott Rosenfelt. I decided to write the book after we finished casting because I love writing books and felt that the intimate process would help me direct the actors when production started. This had worked for me with my feature documentary, The Great American Family, which won several international awards and the book with the same title won an Eric Hoffer award.

This film has been a long journey – how are you feeling now that it is ready for release?  

This is the first Iraqi American narrative feature film, and led by women talent, specifically a female writer/director and female leading cast. The characters are played by the community being portrayed (the Muslim family in the story is Muslim in real life and the Chaldean family in the story is Chaldean in real life). I feel very proud to have pushed through the time-consuming and challenging process to the finish line. I’m also feeling a lot lighter. While I’m lucky and grateful to have the team of talent that surrounded this project, at the end of the day, as an independent filmmaker, the responsibilities weighed heavily and oftentimes solely upon me.

What are you expecting the reaction to the film to be and how are people reacting so far?

People have been greatly supportive and are loving the theme of women independence, of love, unity, and harmony! Of course, there are always those who are against the idea of women having freedom and view it as a taboo of some sort. In the summer of 2021, I had my very first book talk cancellation in 17 years due to certain Muslims not liking the storyline about a Muslim woman wanting to remove her hijab. Eleven days after the Pomegranate book talk was canceled, Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul fell and was captured by the Taliban, creating a hell on earth for girls and women since then. Last year, we witnessed the large and currently ongoing protests in Iran that began as a reaction to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested by the Moral Police for wearing her hijab improperly. Tired of the destructive ideologies against women, people all over the world are cheering for the movie that says yes to Woman, Life, Freedom!”

View the trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNzgvYdjRRI&t=12s 

Pomegranate Pictures, LL, is owned and managed by the Director/Writer, Weam Namou. She is working together in association with Executive Producer, Scott Rosenfelt and Buffalo 8 Productions (Santa Monica, CA) to produce the movie. Pomegranate, the novel, was released in February 2021. More about this important film: http://www.PomegranateMovie.com