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GWENDOLEN CATE/MOURNING IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN

Documentary film about the plight of Iraq’s indigenous people who are the living continuum of Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization.

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The connection to our most ancient roots, the cradle of civilization, is being destroyed as the indigenous people of Iraq, the Mesopotamians, are being exterminated. Presenting an epic story through the eyes of the people who are struggling to save both their lives and their heritage, this feature length cinéma-vérité documentary film reveals the untold story of the war in Iraq; the destruction of 7,000 years of culture and history. Ignored by the media, this humanitarian and cultural crisis has dangerous implications for the entire world. The 2003 looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad was just the beginning of an epic tragedy. Iraq’s indigenous people, the Mesopotamians, are a living encyclopedia of our own identity and origins. These non-Muslim descendants of the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians are being exterminated by an unlikely triad of allies: politicians vying for wealth and influence in the new Iraq, Islamic fundamentalists, and Christian Evangelicals seeking converts. Iraq has been a rich mosaic of religious and ethnic diversity for thousands of years, although it has been presented in simplistic terms by the mainstream media. Challenging many stereotypes, the film humanizes both Iraq and the faces of these ancient cultures. Present-day Iraq is the center of ancient Mesopotamia, where the wheel, writing, astronomy, geometry, the calendar, the way we tell time were invented, and where the first laws, villages, cities, and democracies were established. Mesopotamia is also the source of the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Abraham himself was Mesopotamian. MOURNING IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN focuses on three endangered minority groups – the Assyrians, who were the first converts to Christianity outside Jerusalem, the Sabean Mandaeans, who are the followers of John the Baptist, and the Yazidi, who practice ancient rites, collectively the descendants of the pre-Islamic Mesopotamians. This film offers a unique, personal glimpse of these people – and takes us on a journey from Iraq to the diaspora in Syria, Jordan, and the U.S. The filmmaker has gained unprecedented access and trust, spending several months during the past 2 years embedded in these communities. The film seeks to bring the world’s attention to the destruction of the guardians of the origins of Western culture. An intimate and exclusive portrait of endangered communities, the film weaves together personal stories, interviews, and compelling images of ancient ceremonies and iconic historical sites like Babylon, Ur, and Nineveh. By challenging a myriad of stereotypes, the film connects the past to the present, and the East to the West, reminding us that, in a time of dangerous divisiveness, we are all related. We are all threatened by what is happening now to Iraq’s persecuted minorities. An irreplaceable library of our stories, our traditions, our beliefs, is about to disappear.