a film by Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum, documentary, 95 min, USA/UK/France 2017

T. E. Lawrence said she was a “wonderful person – not very much like a woman, you know”. Letters from Baghdad is the story of Gertrude Bell (1868–1926), sometimes referred to as the “female Lawrence of Arabia”. The daughter of a progressive British industrialist who also served as a Liberal Member of Parliament, Bell graduated with first-class honors from Oxford after only two years and became a world-class mountaineer (Gertrudspitze, an Alpine peak in the Bernese Oberland is named after her). Fascinated by Arab culture, she traveled widely in the Middle East, to areas that were still part of the Ottoman Empire at the time. She met and earned the trust of a number of tribal chiefs and supported their drive to achieve independence from Turkish rule. Bell played a decisive part in the founding of the modern state of Iraq and even helped draw its borders, though she soon realized that this new nation was bound to be undermined by its ethnic and religious divisions.
The Swiss filmmaker Sabine Krayenbühl and her American counterpart Zeva Oelbaum bring this remarkable personage to life by drawing on rare archival footage and eye-witness accounts as well as Bell’s extensive correspondence, including her intimate letters, private diaries and secret communiqués, read by Tilda Swinton.

Winner Audience Award, Beirut Int. Film Festival 2016
IDFA, Amsterdam 2016
Doc NYC, Official Selection 2016
BFI London Film Festival, Official Selection
International Cinema Release 2017

cast & crew
Voice of Gertrud Bell: Tilda Swinton

Directors: Zeva Oelbaum and Sabine Krayenbühl
Production: Zeva Oelbaum
Edit: Sabine Krayenbühl
Music: Paul Cantelon
Co-Producer: Mia Bays
Executive Producers: Tilda Swinton, Thelma Schoonmaker, Ruedi Gerber

Michael Higgs (General Sir Gilbert Clayton)
Eric Loscheider (T. E. Lawrence)
Rachael Stirling (Vita Sackville-West)
Adam Astill (Sgt. Frank Stafford)
Helen Ryan (Lady Florence Bell)
Rose Leslie (Stimme der jungen Gertrude Bell)

additional information
Press documentation(pdf)