“Jews, Muslims, Christians – we were all Iraqis – it was paradise.”

On the hundredth anniversary of the British invasion in 1917, Remember Baghdad is the untold story of Iraq, an unmissable insight into how the country developed from a completely new perspective – through the eyes of the Jews who lived there for 2,600 years until only a generation ago.

With vivid home movies and archive news footage, eight characters tell their remarkable stories, of fun that was had, and the fear that followed as Iraq laid foundations for decades of unrest.

Amid the country’s instability today we follow one Iraqi Jew on a journey home, back to Baghdad.

Remember Baghdad was screened at the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley on December 3 ahead of nationwide UK release and will be screen again on January 7 followed by a Q&A with director Fiona Murphy and contributor Edwin Shuker from Finchley.

I caught up with Fiona and Edwin, the later of whom was born in Iraq in 1955 but moved to Woodside Park with his family in 1971.

Borehamwood Times: Edwin Shuker in the Jewish quarter of BaghdadEdwin Shuker in the Jewish quarter of Baghdad

Edwin, you left Iraq as a teenager – what were the main reasons surrounding your departure? Was your religious identity a difficulty while you lived there?

In the mid-1960s, Jews could not to legally leave Iraq and at the same time they were deprived from their basic human rights. Many were arrested and tortured, and others simply disappeared. In January 1969, 10 were hung in the main public square of Baghdad falsely accused of espionage. It was against such a backdrop that my family managed to escape the country in 1971 and sought asylum in the UK.

How did you get involved with the project and were you reluctant to be filmed as you went back to Iraq?

I met the director, Fiona Murphy, to brief her about the remaining Jews in Iraq and ended up being part of her film. I knew that she was the right person to tell the story of my people and their rich history. I also knew that filming in Baghdad would give the documentary the necessary boost to reach a wide audience.

Have you been back before this visit?

I have been going to Baghdad since 2003 but never with a film crew.

Returning to one’s birthplace is an emotional and unparalleled experience as one relives his childhood and formative years.

Borehamwood Times: Director Fiona MurphyDirector Fiona Murphy

Fiona, how did you meet Edwin and decide to document his story?

I was hoping to meet the last remaining Jews in Iraq and I heard that Edwin was in contact with them, so we met in a coffee shop. He was worried. He is very fond of the old lady who has sacrificed her life to stay on and manage the Jewish inheritance there. She collects rents on the onetime synagogues which are now garages and stores, or restaurants. He was afraid I’d blunder in and that she’d be killed once people realised who she was.

He calls her Auntie. As we sat there and talked, my hopes fading, I realised that he himself was the story!

What do you hope this documentary will say to people and what are its key themes?

When I started I thought it had echoes of today that mattered to how we think now about the Middle East and the immigrants who are arriving now. My parents are immigrants from former British colonies and I wanted people to understand how Britain itself has a big responsibility for creating the horrible situation in Iraq today. I was ready to see that once you’ve got a nasty situation, a small minority with no power can become a convenient target. And I liked the idea of turning people’s ideas over by showing how Iraq was a cool place, how the Jews belonged in the Middle East and had a great time there. All that had to be buried.

They just tell their stories. Perhaps the ideas are floating about if someone wants to see them.

Remember Baghdad plays the Phoenix Cinema in High Road, East Finchley, on January 7 at 5.15pm ahead of its release.