Among the many fascinating people we meet in About Baghdad, a terrific new documentary about the current situation in Iraq, a woman named Laheeb Numan stands out. A trial lawyer before the U.S. invasion, she bravely stood up in court to Saddam Hussein's malignant son Uday and was duly rewarded: In the film, we hear her own bone-chilling account of her barbaric imprisonment and torture. Yet consider what she did after American and Coalition forces arrived to overthrow the Hussein tyranny: She organized a children's protest against the occupation.
If there seems to be any contradiction between Numan's torture and her protest, then you haven't met many Iraqis. And indeed that's a huge problem for the American public right now: Thanks to the narrow-focused narcissism and lack of oversight of the U.S. media, we haven't seen Iraqis as they see themselves.
It's a problem that the remarkable About Baghdad goes a long way toward rectifying. Shot last summer by a filmmaking collective called InCounter Productions (including local activist Rania Masri, who will offer a Q&A at the showings noted below), the documentary escorts us through many sectors of Baghdad's complex society and lets us hear the people's voices. They reflect on decades of conflict and their current ambivalences over the U.S. occupation, with its shaky plans for their future. Filmed and edited with exceptional fluidity, and graced with a lovely score by Amir Tawfiq, this "montage" of Iraqi observations leaves you feeling that you've heard from the Iraqi people, perhaps for the first time.
Showing Monday, June 14 at the Varsity in Chapel Hill; Tuesday, June 15 at Durham's Carolina Theatre; Thursday, June 17 at the Rialto in Raleigh. All showings are at 7 p.m. A $5 donation is suggested.