Wolf of Baghdad by Carol Isaacs (photo credit: CAROL ISAACS)
Wolf of Baghdad by Carol Isaacs (photo credit: CAROL ISAACS)
Award-winning 'Wolf of Baghdad' comes in Israel at Animax
 

British Jewish author and cartoonist Carol Isaacs is heading to Israel on August 10 for the 22nd incarnation of Animax, Tel Aviv’s festival of animation, comics and cartoons.

The celebrated cartoonist, who often draws under the name Surreal McCoy, is set to bring the cinematic adaptation of her award-winning Wolf of Baghdad comic to Israel for the first time.

“It’s a new genre called a motion comic,” Isaacs explained of her work. “You see a page on the screen and the panels come to life one by one.” These visuals are accompanied by music, usually Judeo-Arabic music with a focus on Iraqi Jewish tunes and even some piyutim thrown in. This music is also usually performed live with the showing of the film, like with old silent movies. And Isaacs, a self-described musical nomad, is usually one of the ones playing, as well.

The rich and oft-forgotten Jewish history in the Middle East

Wolf of Baghdad is Isaacs’s first graphic novel and is a major departure from her traditional work, which tends to be more focused on satire and humorous Gary Larson-esque cartoons. Yet, it tells a much more personal story.

“Wolf of Baghdad tells the story of a Jewish Iraqi family’s life in Baghdad told to me by family anecdotes,” Isaacs explained. “It’s mostly wordless, interspersed with family memories and recollections that informs the arc of the story from when times are good until when they have to leave.”

Isaacs’s family was forced to leave Iraq during the Farhud, a violent pogrom in the 1940s that many people mark as the beginning of the end of Iraqi Jewry. This fact is something that she feels isn’t widely known.

There has been a lot of representation of the Jewish experience in Europe, but not the Middle East. Lots of people don’t know there were Jews in the Middle East. I thought it was time for us to tell our stories. We were a third of the population of Baghdad in the 1940s. The Jews held great cultural significance and lived fairly happily,” she explained.

The Farhud is kind of the tipping point. It was a culmination of several years of antisemitism that culminated in this one event in June 1941 that made the Jews realize Iraq wasn’t their home anymore. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

“The Farhud is kind of the tipping point. It was a culmination of several years of antisemitism that culminated in this one event in June 1941 that made the Jews realize Iraq wasn’t their home anymore. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Carol Isaacs

Nostalgia for a place she'd never been

The importance of Baghdad and the rich Iraqi Jewish heritage is evident in Isaacs’s work, even if she hasn’t been there herself.

“My family didn’t really talk about Baghdad and what made them leave. It was always this idealized place and I had this weird kind of nostalgia for a place I’ve never been to,” Isaacs explained.

Wolf of Baghdad had previously been shown in other places, like London, including at the Iraqi Embassy, where it was positively received, but this will be its first showing in Israel, a place where the rich heritage of Middle Eastern Jewry is very much alive.

But already, Isaacs’s work has been making waves in raising awareness in the history of Jews in the Middle East and has recently been put on a 10th grade syllabus for a high school in Toronto, Canada.

But the rich story of Middle Eastern Jewry doesn’t stop in Baghdad and Isaacs’s next work will tell a new story set even farther away, though one just as personal.

Called Burma by Accordion, the story focuses on Isaacs’s trip to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, where many Jews fled to from the Middle East, including one of her relatives, whose story will be told interspersed with her own.

Currently, Burma by Accordion is out on submission and Isaacs will talk about it at Animax.

“It follows the story of one of my Dad’s cousins who had to flee when the Japanese invaded,” Isaacs said. “He fled Mandalay with nothing but the clothes on his back and an accordion in hand, and walked through the jungle to India. None of my family is there now but they were happy and had a great life there. This is an element of history not everyone is aware of.”

The Animax festival will take place from August 9-13 at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. Wolf of Baghdad will be shown on August 10. Ticket prices range from NIS 25 to NIS 45 per event, though a full pass is available for NIS 380. For more information, visit: www.animixfest.co.il.



Load more