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Students Document Their High School Experience in “Baghdad High”

Maija Gustin | Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tonight the Worldview Film Series will be screening “Baghdad High”. This film will be featured at the Browning Cinema in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at 6:30 and 9:30. It is a free but ticketed event.

This documentary tells the moving story of four boys, all close friends, trying to live an ordinary senior year of high school in the center of chaos. These boys were given a video camera and basic instructions in filmmaking to film their lives for an entire year as a video diary. What results is a simple story about four normal boys of differing religions and backgrounds who study, love music, and talk about all the problems plaguing teenage boys. All of this, though takes place amidst explosions and gunfire.

Hayder, Anmar, Ali, and Mohammad face extraordinary challenges in their lives. Their power may go out for days at a time, they often cannot go to school for fear of leaving their home, and every step they take outside may mean injury by a stray bullet or roadside bomb. Every day, their families have to grapple with the decision to stay in Baghdad or to flee and become a part of the millions of refugees who have already made that decision. But even faced with injury, upheaval, or death, the boys still just want to hang out and talk about Britney Spears and their own hairstyles. Their close friendship and the goals they have for their futures give them reason to be optimistic in the face of extreme violence. Hayder aims to be a singer-songwriter and Ali dreams of being an architect.

They do not see their lives as unfair, although they may hate the people responsible for tearing their nation apart. Rather, they turn to each other to find some glimpse of hope in a situation that many on the outside view as hopeless. “Baghdad High” is a glimpse into stories unseen until now, showing more than faceless statistics, carrying the message that while things may not be great in Baghdad, the people nevertheless survive and find some normalcy in life.

“Baghdad High” is an HBO Documentary Film released last year. It is the brainchild of two journalist/filmmakers who spent a great deal of time in Iraq. Co-producer and co-director Laura Winter is scheduled to be present during the film. It is 88 minutes long featuring English subtitles to accompany the Arabic and Kurdish film.