A residency in Paris for actress and director Zahraa Ghandour

It is always the right time to remind people that they deserve to live with respect and without fear.

Presenter, producer and actress, Zahraa Ghandour has become one of the icons of the Iraqi film industry in just a few years. Between political engagement, bold roles and ambitious projects, she works to reveal the voice of Iraqi women and highlight the facets of a complex society. She is currently in Paris, working on her Women of My Life project as part of the Institut français residency programme at the Cité internationale des arts

Updated on 10/04/2024

5 min

Born to a Lebanese father and an Iraqi mother, Zahraa Ghandour grew up in Baghdad. In 2004, she left Iraq to live first in Syria, then Beirut, before returning to her home country. At the age of 17, she started working in the media and was given her own 52-minute TV show at the age of 22. As a writer and presenter, she was the anchor for the second series of this weekly journal focusing on social problems in Iraq. She subsequently appeared on TV and radio, including in the Dot.IQ technology show on Sumaria TV. 

In parallel to her work as a presenter and documentary writer, she also began a career as an actress and quickly became one of the key figures in the Iraqi film industry. A coincidental meeting with filmmaker Mohammed Al-Daradji earned her, crucially, the lead role in The Journey, seen for the first time at TIFF in 2017 before going on to represent Iraq in the Best Foreign Film category at the 2019 Oscars. She won praise in the role of Sara, a suicide bomber, as the film gathered rave reviews and numerous awards. 

Zahraa Ghandour's performances have regularly received awards, especially in 2018 when she won the Best Actress Award at the Muscat International Film Festival, the Annual Asian Film Festival and the Malmo Arab Film Festival. After intensive classes at the MET Film School in Berlin in 2018, she was one of the winners of the International Emerging Film Talents Association (IEFTA) Global Film Expression initiative in 2021.

In 2019, Zahraa Ghandour appeared in Baghdad in My Shadow, directed by Samir, a thriller set between Iraq and England. She portrays a rebellious architect named Amal, a role that quickly transforms her into a bête noire for Islamists. Not afraid to take risks, her participation in the shoot was almost compromised under the pressures and dangers involved. She also continues to work on television projects, including the Baghdad Central series for Channel 4. 

Supported by the French Embassy's service for cooperation and cultural action in Iraq, Zahraa Ghandour is in residency in Paris until 4 April 2024 for her Women of My Life project. This documentary project deals with violence against women in Iraq through the story of one of her close friends who mysteriously disappeared twenty years ago. 

In this intimate documentary, she evokes the ubiquitous violence and denigration of women in her country. Combining investigations and interviews, Zahraa Ghandour explores the past to imagine the possibility of a different future. Ultimately, it is this dark reality that allows her to highlight the dismissive treatment of femicide with amazing freedom of tone. 

  • 2018


    Zahraa Ghandour is cast in the role of Sara in "The Journey", selected to represent Iraq at the Oscars.

  • 2019


    Appears in "Baghdad in My Shadow", directed by Samir.

  • 2021


    Recipient of the Global Film Expression initiative of the International Emerging Film Talents Association (IEFTA).

  • 2024


    Zahraa Ghandour in residency in Paris for her "Women of My Life" project.

L'institut français, LAB