Iraqi Wins ‘Young Directors Project’ Competition at Salzburg Festival

Late last month, Iraqi director Mokhallad Rasem became the first from the Middle East to win the ‘Young Directors Project,’ an annual competition as part of the Salzburg Festival in Austria:

Mokhallad Rasem, © Koen Broos
Mokhallad Rasem, © Koen Broos

Each year, four shortlisted directors participate in the festival, with a jury honoring “the most convincing performance, innovative idea or unconventional approach to the questions of modern society.”

The winner receives €10,000 in prize money (and a Montblanc pen, since it’s sponsored by Montblanc).

Rasem won with his interpretation of Romeo and Juliet in which he presented three pairs of lovers — two children, two young adults and an older couple — and included love poems from both European and Arabic traditions.

According to festival organizers:

Mokhallad Rasem is an Iraqi theatremaker with a bold physical and visual style. His plays usually feature a range of different languages as this reflects the world in which he – and we – live. He was born in Baghdad in 1982 and directed at his country’s National Theatre before settling in Antwerp in 2006. The first theatre he created in his new home employed actors he had met in the streets as these were the only collaborators he could find. However, following the success of works such as and Iraqi Ghosts, he has been invited to become a resident theatremaker at the city’s prestigious Toneelhuis alongside such internationally acclaimed artists as Guy Cassiers and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

From a video behind-the-scenes: