Leaving Baghdad

I’ve just said goodbye to Fadi and Saha, Samir’s son and daughter. They have become my very own Iraqi family over the last 7 months. My leaving nearly became another all too emotional scene that Samir’s family have got used to.

Only a few months ago I filmed a beautiful reunion as Saha’s sister Rita, and her daughter Lulu came back to Iraq after 5 years away. Then, just a couple of weeks ago it was an emotional farewell as Rita went back to the United States. Samir was stood at the airport watching one half of his family leave. He took the arm of Saha, his eldest unmarried daughter, and left in tears. Now it is my turn to leave. I kissed Saha goodbye and ran out of the house as I saw her start to cry. Fadi shook my hand and asked me for my phone. I will miss his cheekiness. 7 months is a long time, and it is difficult saying goodbye when you know it is forever. When you know the chances of seeing them again are remote. It is hard, but something I am facing now. It makes me sad.

“Sean you really are like my brother” Samir tells me as we drive the dusty streets from his house back to our fortress hotel. “I didn’t tell you this before but I really learnt alot from being you.” Samir has been an inspiration to me. The great thing about making films for me is that I can absorb myself in someone’s world. My friends at home always joke, “Why don’t you get a life of your own instead of sticking your nose into other peoples all the time.” But other peoples lives are so much more interesting than mine, especially in a place like Iraq right now.

I respect the honesty and openness that Samir has given me over these months. He has opened the window of his world and really allowed me inside, in a culture where it isn’t so easy to go snooping around peoples bedrooms, asking them the sort of personal questions I like to ask, and filming so intimately that they eventually fall asleep on camera.

It is a privilege that I respect and that I hope will make a great film. It provides an illuminating insight into what is going on here for ordinary Iraqi’s, something often missed in the daily diet of news. My only aim in coming here was to make a film that showed Iraq as it is today, from the perspective of the Iraqis. I think with Samir I have done that and so much more.

But most of all I have made a great friend who I will miss. I’m often asked to describe my approach to film making, the answer right now is quite simple, it is making friends and sharing experiences in interesting places. In everyone I film I see myself, my aspirations of what I’d like to be, but also my inadequacies and my failings. I look for people who are brave and honest enough to confront this, and allow me to film them, naked, often literally.

Within a week of being with Samir I was filming him in the shower, within a month in his bed, now he falls asleep on camera and barely ever has his clothes on, apart from his y-fronts. Such is the raging Baghdad heat.

As the summer sets in, I am packing my bags for the last time. Returning to London to prepare the edit of this film. I am hoping to finish it in time for an important documentary film festival in Amsterdam in November, where I am hoping the film will premiere.

If all goes to plan I intend bringing Samir over for his first taste of fame outside of Iraq.

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