Ashamedly, I’ve begun to tune out news coverage of the Iraq War and the politics of the region. So many statistics are flashed on the screen every day that they become faceless data to me. Then, along comes a promotional e-mail from HBO for a documentary called Baghdad High, and I have to challenge my complacency and comfortability.
In the film, four Iraqi teenagers filmed and told their stories as they carry on in their daily lives — attending class, lip-syncing to Britney Spears, trying to make sense of the violence, and so on. In this short interview with Ivan O’Mahoney and Laura Winter, the producers, they bring back the humanity of living in a war zone.
What got me was a story O’Mahoney tells about an exchange between Ali, one of the boys in the film, and a newly enlisted soldier during a Q&A session at the Tribeca Film Festival:
“All the questions were more about whether Ali had a girlfriend rather than what his life was like. And then all of a sudden it got really serious. There were two big lines behind the microphone and one of the kids got up and said he had just signed up for the Marine Corps, and he would probably be in Iraq within three or four months. And he said, ‘I finally know what life is like behind those walls and what you guys are like, and it’s been really, really fantastic.’ And at that moment I could see Ali beam with of pride, thinking, ‘Well, at least I’ve been able to make the difference for one person.’”
Just as we need to understand the plight of the people living there, we also need to prepare the young soldiers who are about to embark on missions that will change their lives, and that we, as a society, will need to deal with upon their return. I look forward to watching this film and paying attention again.