Iraqi Special Effects Artist Gains Popularity Online, Sets Eye On Hollywood

Iraqi Special Effects Artist Gains Popularity Online, Sets Eye On Hollywood

Bleeding eyes and gushing wounds -- these are not the typical images that would go viral online, but for one special effects artist in Iraq, they are gaining her a large following.

Sally al-Bayati, a law student from the northern city of Kirkuk, developed an interest in Special Effects (SFX) make-up last year and started to create theatrical prosthetics.

"I started doing SFX one year ago. In the beginning there was no support and no encouragement because it is a strange art, quite unfamiliar to people in Iraq. Also my family did not like the idea because of the sight of blood," the 21-year-old told Reuters.

Bayati decided to turn to social media for feedback.

"I continued and started to post my works on my social media page and I succeeded in gaining a large following," she said.

The life of Iraqi people is like a horror movie, Bayati said, with near daily bombings that make gory images an everyday occurrence.

Her social media page is full of images of eerily realistic works, including hands with ripped off fingers, faces full of deep-cuts and exposed brains.

Fake blood is an essential element in her creations. She mixes white honey, red dye and cocoa powder to create the effect, but it has not been easy sourcing the materials needed for her work.

"I made all the materials at home. In the beginning I did not have anything, but now I have, although they are very simple compared to materials available abroad. I try to find their equivalent in materials available in Iraq. I try to look for the ingredients of the original material and then I try to make it in a way that fits my work," said Bayati.

As SFX make-up is still a relatively new concept in Iraq, Bayati hopes her work can raise the profile of the art form and eventually attract filmmakers' attention.

After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq's movie archives and equipment were looted, and later sectarian violence drained the country of artistic talents. Film production in Iraq slowed to a crawl and the infrastructure of the industry deteriorated. Laboratories and cameras fell into disrepair and cinemas were shuttered.

But Bayati still dreams of being part of a make-up team on an Iraqi thriller movie, worthy enough to represent her country at international film festivals and in Hollywood.

"My ambition is to work in a horror movie that can make its way to Hollywood, an Iraqi film that can go to Hollywood. A good movie that attracts support and attention from people who are capable financially to provide us with the materials needed to make something nice to compete with other movies," Bayati said.

"All the countries have movies that take part in international festivals, except Iraq. We too, thanks to God, have capabilities and talents even better than in any other countries and though the materials we use are simple, yet we can compete with other works, even in Hollywood," she added.

Iraqi independent film production houses have tried to pick up the pieces, with some notable successes such as the privately funded war film, "Son of Babylon". The film won a number of international awards and was selected as Iraq's official entry for the 2011 Academy Awards.