Directed by: Abbas Fahdel, Iraq Abbas
Fahdel began in February, 2002, to film his extended family living in Baghdad under the threat of war with the United States. In the first part, “Before the Fall,” he starts just like a home movie, filming their rather ordinary days of watching TV (English language cartoons), shopping, singing, and playing games when the power cuts plunge them into darkness. There are school days, weddings, religious events and charitable acts. Along the way, Fahdel’s twelve-year-old-nephew Haidar assumes the role of guide. He is smart, very engaging and draws you into their lives making something as mundane as drilling a well, interesting. The well is for when war comes, and the tap water stops flowing, so they will have clean water. The bread they are baking and drying is for when the war comes and the stores will have no food. The diapers are for when war comes and they need a homemade mask to breathe through in case of chemical attacks. College students stop studying for exams because when the war comes there will be no exams. Throughout daily activities propaganda films of Saddam Hussein depicting wonderful things he has done for his people play in the background on the TV.
The second part, “After the Battle,”picks up three weeks after the 2003 “shock and awe” campaign led by President George W. Bush. The normal family life punctuated by domestic preparations in case of war has changed dramatically. Now there are American troops everywhere and armored vehicles in the streets. Fahdel drives around the city with relatives and films the ruins, stopping at the Baghdad radio offices which also housed the Baghdad Cinema Studios. Thousands of reels have been destroyed, perhaps including evidence of Hussein’s crimes. Much of the city is reduced to rubble. Fahdel filmed his relatives over the course of seventeen months, and condensed his grass roots perspective to nearly six hours of film. It’s a homeland movie that is well worth watching.