Life, love, music, smelly socks at "Baghdad High"

Fri Aug 1, 2008 8:31am EDT
 
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hayder is trying to memorize the words to a song by U.S. pop star Britney Spears, Anmar is worried because his girlfriend has not called and Ali and his best friend Mohammad wrestle each other as they watch TV.

All four boys are regular Iraqi teenagers, except that they attended high school in a war zone and have used handheld video cameras to document their final year for a documentary called "Baghdad High," airing on U.S. cable channel HBO on Monday.

The film follows the 17-year-olds' 2006-2007 school year, as the country was on the verge of spiraling into a sectarian civil war and former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was convicted of crimes against humanity and hanged.

"I wanted to show everybody what life was like in Iraq with the war and how people got to school and do their normal lives with everything that's happening there," Ali, now 18, told Reuters in interview.

"We're like the same as any students, any high school students, that live in America -- we're the same," said Ali, who moved to America with his family about six months ago. "We like the same movies, the same music, the same things."

Much of the film shows the boys doing what most teenagers do -- playing sports, dancing in their bedrooms, playing around at school. But the ongoing war is never far from their minds with gunfire and explosions a regular occurrence.

Ali films himself watching the news. "Good news? There's no good news," he says, before the electricity goes off -- again. "Is it my job to be an oil mechanic? I should be studying," he tells the camera as he tries to start a generator.

Laura Winter, co-director of the film, said the boys -- Ali, a Shia Kurd, Mohammad, who has one Sunni parent and one Shia parent, Hayder, a Shia, and Anmar, a Christian -- are the "real Iraq."   Continued...

 
<p>Some of the 897 trainees of the national police force celebrate under the new Iraqi flag at their graduation ceremony in Baghdad February 11, 2008. "Baghdad High" follows the lives of four regular Iraqi teenagers, except that they attended high school in a war zone and have used handheld video cameras to document their final year for the documentary airing on U.S. cable channel HBO on Monday. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani</p>