In late March, a new Chinese movie starring Jackie Chan was released in Baghdad cinemas, attracting flocks of fans who awaited eagerly for the martial artist.
"I'm excited. It was like the 1990s all over again, to see my favorite artist Chan," Ali Kasim, a pharmacist told to us after watching Chan's film, "the Knight of Shadows: Between Yin and Yang" with his family at Baghdad Mall.
"When I was a kid, my family used to gather around the TV on Friday afternoon to see a movie, and Chan's action comedies were our favorites. Today, I watched his latest film with my wife and two kids, and we all enjoyed it," Kasim said.
In the action fantasy comedy, Chan played the role of a legendary demon hunter named Pu Songling, using his magical Yin Yang brush to entrap beasts that enter the human dimension.
"We've seen many of his films before," said Haider Abdul Karim, said a dentistry student, adding that "he always mixes humor with action, and we liked his latest film."
Chan's films have been part of the collective memory of generations of Iraqis and to this day, he remains a symbol of the 1990s action movies and a favorable star to movie lovers worldwide.
Every day in the past two weeks, dozens of groups of young movie-goers and families flocked into the Iraqi Cinema hall to see Jackie Chan's latest films.
"Last year, I saw a Chan movie -- the Foreigner. It was very good," Ali Thaer, a college student and cinema aficionado spoke.
"He's very popular and loved here, we grew up watching his films," Thaer said.
Prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, local al-Shabab TV used to broadcast Chan's movies at weekends, and people admired him for his incredible sense of humor and acrobatic fighting moves.
"Chan always reminds me of his predecessor, Bruce Lee. The two martial artists have drawn the interest of millions worldwide to Chinese cinema, and it never failed to impress," Kasim added.
Amid the closure of cinemas in postinvasion Iraq, movie lovers found refuge in TV channels, movie streaming sites and pirated DVDs in order to see their favorite Chinese films.
"I've seen many Chinese films before. Their plots are generally interesting, but Chan's films remain my favorites," Thaer added.
In recent years, China becomes one of the world's largest cinema market, and its movie industry is widely thriving and rapidly developing. It is always extending to reach new audiences worldwide.
"I always have high expectations for the Chinese films, for they offer breathtaking scenery blended with traditional martial arts and music," Kasim said.
In Iraq, a new generation of movie lovers has emerged, with a growing desire for an alternative cinema industry to replace the exaggerations and stereotypes of Hollywood films. Many of the new generation have already resorted to Chinese production to meet the need.
Many Iraqis believe that Chinese cinema has a great chance to take position among the global film industries in the hearts of Iraqi movie lovers.
"As many Chinese companies invest in the country, closer ties with China are expected in the upcoming stage, especially that Iraq is seeking to be strongly involved in the Belt and Road Initiative," Kasim added.
"Better Sino-Iraqi ties will widely open horizon for cultural exchange, paving the way for more Chinese movies to make their way onto Iraqi screens," Kasim added.
Iraqi-Chinese relations have seen a significant improvement in recent years, manifested in the influx of Chinese goods in Iraqi markets and the increasing investments of oil and automobile companies.