An Interview with Jason Williams

A filmmaker recounts the remarkable story of recovering the Treasures of Nimrud in the Central Bank of Iraq and comments on Iraq's heritage crisis.

The Interview:

The Treasures of Nimrud, jewelry and other precious artifacts recovered in the late 1980s from Assyrian royal tombs near Mosul in northern Iraq, have been compared to the contents of Tutankhamun's tomb. In the aftermath of the looting that took place in Baghdad following the demise of the Saddam Hussein regime, many feared that this collection was lost forever along with countless other priceless objects from Irag's National Museum and elsewhere in the country. Early in June 2003, film-maker Jason Williams and his National Geographic camera crew succeeded in locating and recovering the Treasures of Nimrud and other precious heritage objects in the Central Bank of Iraq, where in 1990 they had been placed for safekeeping. Meanwhile, looting is reportedly continuing at archaeological sites elsewhere in the country. In this interview, recorded via telephone on 31 July 2003, Mr. Williams recounts this remarkable story and offers his perspectives on the heritage crisis in Iraq.

About Jason Williams:

jason williams Jason Williams is the President of JWM Productions. His multiple Emmy Award-winning work has been seen on the BBC, CBS, UK Channel 4, UK Channel 5, CNN, Discovery, Le Cinq, National Geographic, NBC, PBS, TBS, and TLC, as well as on numerous broadcast, cable and satellite outlets around the world. Jason has produced and directed programs in thirty countries and on six continents. He has made films on such diverse subjects as natural history, anthropology, current affairs, ancient history and marine technology.

His career began as an anthropologist, but, in 1985, he switched to journalism, producing live news and current events programming for CNN. A Senior Producer for TBS Productions in the late 1980's, he became Vice-President of Development & Production for Time-Life in 1991. As Series Producer and Producer of the landmark series, Lost Civilizations, he won the Primetime Emmy for Best Informational Series in 1996. That same year, he founded JWM Productions with Bill Morgan. Their company is now based in Takoma Park, Maryland, and has produced more than 120 hours of programming over the past six years.

Currently in production is a new reality format for the History Channel, Time Titans; The Thieves of Baghdad for National Geographic's Ultimate Explorer, Nazi Grand Prix for Channel 4 (UK) andNatural Born Sinners for Animal Planet. Other recent productions include Aftermath for Discovery Health; Turkey Secrets for Animal Planet; The Treasure Seekers for National Geographic; The Unfinished War for CNN; 24/7 for TLC and Granada; Hidden Worlds for Travel and Time Life; Beating Time for Discovery Health; Biomes & Eco-Systems for Kids for Schlessinger Media; Challenger:Go For Launch for Discovery and the BBC, and Millennium Man for PBS and Channel 4.

Past productions include contemporary and historical programming such as Treasure!, Behind the Badge and Inside the Inferno for TLC; expedition and adventure programming like Expedition Discovery for Discovery and Great National Parks of the World for The Reader's Digest; and natural history films like Underdogs: Prairie Dogs Under Attack and Tiger! for Turner Original Productions and the National Wildlife Federation, as well as The Velvet Killer and the Emmy award-winning Saving JJ for National Geographic Explorer.

AIA Urges Protection of Iraq's Archaeological Heritage(Archaeological Institute of America)

Ancient Assyrian Treasures Found Intact in Baghdad (National Geographic Ultimate Explorer)

Fertile Crescent (Joshua J. Mark)

Looted Treasures Return to Iraq (the Iraq Museum)

Iraq Treasures to Tour US (BBC) (BBC)

JWM Productions

Mesopotamia (The British Museum)

The National Geographic Society's Cultural Assessment of Iraq (National Geographic Society)

Nimrud: Central Palace Area, 9th-8th centuries BCE (Dr. Paley)

Nimrud: Northwest Palace of Ashur-Nasir-pal II, 9th Century BCE(Dr. Paley)

Stolen Stones: The Modern Sack of Nineveh, by John Malcolm Russell (Archaeology Magazine)

Task Force on the Cultural Heritage of Iraq (Archaeological Institute of America)

The Tower of Babel: Archaeology, History, and Cuneiform Texts (A.R. George, London) (University of Maryland

Treasure of Nimrud Is Found In Iraq, and It's Spectacular (Ancient Worlds)