April 11, 2007
Baghdad Blogger Salam Pax: Part 1


Salam Pax

Watch the program: Part 1 | Part 2

I decided to make a film "How to stay alive in Baghdad" when it dawned on me that I am spending much more time and energy on answering that question than on anything else.

It has become a bit of an art form: Which roads to choose, which ID to show and how to answer questions about your religion when the check point isn’t clearly an official one. But the truth is you can never tell where the next car bomb will explode, so really it ends up being a matter of crossing your fingers and bravely ignoring the latest news bulletin.

I started by putting together a list of the bizarre reasons people have been killed for besides being in the army or being a politician –- which in Iraq qualifies you immediately as prime target.

The list included the wrong type of beard, wrong type of attire, wrong shirt colour and wrong profession. But there is one glaring omission, journalists. They have been a target for killings and assassinations from the beginning, but the more I was looking into that issue the more I got worried about making this film.

I decided to do the ostrich-manoeuvre and hide my head in the sand otherwise getting out of the car with a camera would have been really difficult.

The sister film, "Looking for fun in Baghdad," was an obvious one to make after spending 10 days on the streets looking at the absurd reasons people are killed for in Iraq. Initially I had proposed to go spend a couple of days at a studio where pop videos were filmed, but that was too optimistic. They had abandoned the building months ago, too dangerous a profession.

Even filming on the set of the soap opera took days to set up because the director was worried about the safety of her crew. Being a freelance filmmaker here makes getting people to trust you hard work. But it paid off, the atmosphere on the set was fantastic.

Even in this film I couldn’t really escape the subject of random violent death as it has become part of our daily reality. The question which still pains me and all Iraqis is that four years on and we still can't say with any certainty how many Iraqi civilians have died since the start of the war.

Before I end I would like to pre-empt a comment which invariably comes up, if I may.

I am not laying all the blame for the deaths of Iraqi civilians solely on the actions of the coalition forces. I realize that our own Iraqi politicians have been just as incompetent and have shown just as much insensitivity towards the suffering of the Iraqi people as the "coalition of the willing" has shown.

-- From "Baghdad Blogger" Salam Pax
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