Film Review

“About Baghdad

Reviewed by Bob Allen

With the blackout around the razing of Fallujah it was an unexpected pleasure to see the candid interviews of Iraqis in the recently released film About Baghdad. Filmed in the months immediately following the 2003 invasion, the politics seem like a decade ago. Bremer had just arrived to rule Iraq. It was before the Shi’ite campaign for direct elections, before the April uprisings, before Abu Ghraib. Before Iraq had been granted “sovereignty”! This was a time when millions of Iraqis were willing to concede some potential benefit from the U.S. occupation. Before the U.S. turned its big guns against the Shi’a in Sadr City and Najaf.

The summer of 2003 is already history, but it is a valuable history. One of the things that struck me was how many times in the film obvious opponents of the Ba’ath regime condemned the injustice of the UN sanctions against Iraq. This is a valuable point for U.S. audiences who were encouraged to believe that any opposition to the sanctions among Iraqis was staged Ba’ath Party rhetoric.

One of the best scenes is an interview with the president of the Baghdad businessmen’s association. In a crowded lobby before the glare of the cameras he enthusiastically praises the U.S. occupation. But after a few sentences an outraged bystander interrupts the interview to make sure that people abroad are not being misled to think that this man’s views are representative of Iraqis generally. The upstaged business leader angrily asks, “Who are you!?” The man steps forward, looks his opponent in the eye, states his name, and offers to pull his identification out of his wallet to prove it. Priceless.

The website has a very good slideshow of Baghdad.