Movie: Letters from Baghdad

English archaeologist and explorer Gertrude Bell became one of the most powerful women in the British Empire after World War I. Her extensive travels in Mesopotamia and contacts across the Arab world made her vital to the war effort, and those same skills gave her a central role in the division of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of Iraq. The documentary Letters from Baghdad, directed by Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum, uses archival footage, reenactments and journal entries (as read by Tilda Swinton, who is also an executive producer) to tell the story of a woman whose achievements have often been overshadowed by T.E. Lawrence. Though not officially connected to Janet Wallach's biography of Bell, Desert Queen (Anchor, $17, 9781400096190), Penguin Random House has responded to the film's unexpectedly successful opening with tie-in cover stickers and 200 mini posters sent to booksellers across the country.

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