|NICE BOMBS - DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT|
In January of 2004, compelled to find my place in current conflicts, I made a journey with my wife and father to the place of my birth – Baghdad, Iraq. I shot over forty-seven hours of footage, documenting my trip internally and externally, as both diarist and observer. This film explores the notion of identity and the repercussions created by my dual role as Iraqi and American. The finished work will be an examination of my place in Iraq after being away for over 24 years, as well as a broad panorama of the voices, gestures and faces of my Iraqi family and friends who have had no voice under Saddam's regime for the last 30 years. It is a discovery for both myself and for those who only now have begun to experiment with their freedom of speech and expression. Especially striking were Iraqis' acceptance, optimism, and nonchalance, encapsulated in a phrase used by my cousin – “Nice bombs.”
This trip was much more than just a fact-finding mission. Themes common to my past works, including the power play of interviews, the position of being the perpetual outsider and a persistent fear of violence, have naturally made their way into the project.
I am now planning my return, along with my father, who still holds the lease to our family home in Basrah that was illegally occupied by the Ba’ath 24 years ago. Our prior attempt was thwarted by the general turmoil and violence that was afflicting the region, yet the film will greatly benefit from documenting the experience of reclamation that will doubtlessly be undertaken by many expatriate Iraqis.
INFLUENCES AND APPROACH
Inspired by my mentor, the urban anthropologist Studs Terkel, who taught me the fine art of listening, I plan to give voice to those people who are routinely left out of the nightly news. Rather than simply presenting a set of talking heads or a straightforward documentary, my artistic style of allowing the landscape and its inhabitants to tell their own story will facilitate the narrative and tone. I intend to reach a balance between the compelling and sometimes brutal accounts of contemporary Iraqis with my usual story-telling methods of using a dream-like editing style and an iconic use of thematic images.
The highly personal documentary style of Robb Moss ("The Tourist") has undoubtedly influenced this project. Also inspiring was the brave “Clandestine Diary” of my contemporary, Salam Pax, the seditious and kind-hearted Iraqi web-diarist, who became one subject of this project.
Most media one sees from Iraq is digested and reduced to a series of sound bites and slogans. Political opinions appear to be equally simplistic. The nuances of the situation and, even more so, the emotions of Iraqis themselves, are rarely explored in the U.S. Using the style of a diary film and my own predominantly visual style of storytelling, I want the viewer to become familiar with Iraqis as I know them – as family. I am attempting to create a home movie that will express the culture, customs and complex politics of Iraqis in a post-Saddam era, with the US occupation in the background.