"It is religiously and traditionally unacceptable to run a cinema or theater," he said. "Isn't it better to demolish it and build a beautiful building rather than keep it in ruins for rats?"
Shafiq Mahdi, the director-general of the department of Cinema and Theatre, blamed post-invasion "backwardness" for the loss of Iraq's cultural treasures. He thinks the upcoming year of culture is a "golden opportunity" for Baghdad to rediscover its glamour.
With a government-allocated budget of around $15 million, he bought new equipment, financed production of 24 films and hired experts from France, Germany, Tunisia, Egypt and Iran.
Baghdad-based painter Qassim Sabti echoes Mahdi's optimism.
"We need a new lung to breathe the Iraqi creativity as we have been deprived from such activities long time ago," he said.
Not everyone is convinced.
"Does Iraq really need an event like this now?" asked Baghdad taxi driver Sajad Amjad. He thinks funding for the project could be better spent on improving roads and fixing the city's creaking services.
After a decade of war and sectarian violence, Baghdad is still far from normal.
On Tuesday, al-Qaida affiliated group in Iraq launched a well-coordinated assault of nearly 20 bombings in Baghdad and other cities, killing 65 people and wounding more than 200.
"The timing is not ideal for hosting an event like this," said Hamid al-Shimmari, a Baghdad-based poet. He said Baghdad needs more than upgrades to its cultural infrastructure for an event like this. It also needs a sense of normalcy and stable security.
"Culture is a beautiful world that means tolerance and fantasy, not horror and fear," he added. "The tension is high in every corner and I'm afraid that the upcoming event will not convey a beautiful picture for Baghdad."
But back at the state-run Iraq Fashion House, there is a sense of hope. Artist Ara Yessayan has brought together around 75 youths from different religious and ethnic backgrounds for a performance that will use drama, dance and a fashion show to convey Iraq's nearly 7,000 years of history.
"That's the fact of Iraq. ... Despite the wounds Iraq and Baghdad have suffered, both will survive," he said.
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