The Liberace Of Baghdad
Artist: Sean McAllister / United Kingdom
Sean McAllister background
Sean McAllister left school at 16, worked in a variety of factories in the North of England before he picked up a camera and filmed his way into the National Film School, where he graduated in 1996. His first film, Working for the Enemy BBC2 (Mosaic Films) was nominated for a Royal Television Society Award, 1997. Sean followed up with The Minders (BBC) earning him another Royal Television Society Award Nomination, 1998. After these came Settlers (2000) and Hull’s Angel in 2002.
From his early films to his more recent international successes, Sean McAllister’s films portray, with characteristic intimacy and frankness, people from different parts of the world who are struggling to survive but are survivors, caught up in political and personal conflict, trying to make sense of the world we live in.
Sean’s recent films include The Reluctant Revolutionary (2012, with the Irish Film Board ), Japan: A story of Love and Hate (2008, Co-production BBC Storyville, NHK, Ten Foot Films Ltd) and highly praised The Liberace of Baghdad (2004, Co-Produced with BBC Storyville, TV2 Denmark, Ten Foot Films Ltd) which received the Sundance Film Festival 2005 Special Jury Prize Winner amongst numerous other awards.
The Liberace Of Baghdad
Held up in a heavily fortified Baghdad hotel the pianist, Samir Peter and the film-maker Sean McAllister try to survive the “peace” of post-war Iraq.
Samir Peter, once Iraq’s most famous pianist now plays in a half-empty hotel bar to contractors, mercenaries and besieged journalists. In his heyday he described himself as the ‘Liberace of Baghdad’ but today he sleeps in a bricked up hotel room, too afraid to cross town to his 7 bedroom mansion. His string of western girlfriends has led to his wife and two of his kids leaving for the States.
But now Samir has a visa to live in America too, to find fame and fortune there is what he calls his ‘one last adventure in life’. But Sahar, his pro Saddam daughter hates America for what it has done to her country. She refuses to go and Samir is set to leave alone.
Over 8 months of filming the violence escalates out of control, kidnapping is rife and Samir’s neighbour is murdered on her doorstep. Will Samir now sacrifice his American dream for the sake of his family left in lawless Iraq?
“A remarkable film that reveals everyday life post-Saddam” [The Times]
“I wanted to make a film about what liberation meant for ordinary Iraqis, but I got led astray when I met Samir Peter” – Sean McAllister.
Liberace Of Baghdad (2004) has won numerous awards including…
Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF) 2005 – Award of Excellence
British Independent Film Awards (BIFA) 2005 – Award for Best British Documentary
Chicago International Documentary Festival 2005 – Chicago Doc Grand Prix Jury Special Prize
Directors Guild of America (DGA) 2005 – Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary (nomination)
Festival dei Popoli, Florence International Documentary Festival, Italy 2005 – Prix Gianpaolo Paoli for Best Ethnographic/Anthropological
FilmGrierson Trust Awards 2005 – Nomination for Best Documentary On A Contemporary Issue
It’s All True: International Documentary Film Festival, Brazil 2005 – Special Jury Prize
OneWorld 2005: 7th International Human Rights Watch Documentary Film Festival, Prague 2005 – Minister of Culture Award for best film and Best Director Award (nomination)
Sundance Film Festival 2005 – Special Jury Prize (World Documentary)