Video Diaries Give Glimpse of Daily Life in Baghdad An Iraqi production company is distributing video diaries on the Internet by three young men in Baghdad. They chronicle their daily lives, fears, frustration, anger and just normal day-to-day existence in a broken city.
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Video Diaries Give Glimpse of Daily Life in Baghdad

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Video Diaries Give Glimpse of Daily Life in Baghdad

Video Diaries Give Glimpse of Daily Life in Baghdad

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Generals and politicians make the news a lot in Iraq; less common are the stories of ordinary Iraqis in what pass for the ordinary moments in their lives. One small video production company is showcasing some of those stories on the Web. The project is called "Hometown Baghdad."

NPR's JJ Sutherland reports from the Iraqi capital.

JJ SUTHERLAND: "Hometown Baghdad" is made up of dozens of short video clips posted on YouTube. The series follows the stories of three Iraqi men in their 20s: Saif, Ausama, and Adel. They won't give their last names for fear of being targeted. Just last week, a beloved radio talk show host was shot outside her home.

The videos were shot over a few months last summer and show them eating meals with friends, watching soccer games on TV, cooking with mom, and even dating in a war zone.

ADEL (Iraqi, "Hometown Baghdad"): We're going to tell you a secret. There's one girl I like in college, and I asked her out, and we went out.

SUTHERLAND: But when Adel is asked what happened on the date, he demurs.

ADEL: That's the - a gentleman doesn't kiss and tell, you know.

SUTHERLAND: Adel is the handsome one of the group. He and some friends used to play in a heavy-metal band. He claims to have learned his first English words from Iron Maiden lyrics.

(Soundbite of heavy-metal music)

ADEL: Our songs basically talked about pain, most blatantly. We write about death, destruction, you know, about darkness. You don't necessarily have to be in Iraq to understand, but that's the main source for us to get all the songs.

SUTHERLAND: But Adel doesn't play with those friends anymore.

ADEL: We have a place that we used to practice, and it was destroyed. Three people died in there, and after that, the guys just left the country.

SUTHERLAND: In fact, the other two young men featured on "Hometown Baghdad" have also fled the country. Adel is the only one left, and he lives in one of the worst areas of Baghdad.

ADEL: I was going to meet my friends in college and to prepare for the exams, but I didn't get out today, and I think, the reason is - well, why don't you just hear for yourself.

(Soundbite of gunshots)

SUTHERLAND: Adel won't say what neighborhood he lives in. He's afraid it might identify him. But when asked why he risked his life to make these videos and the continuing risk of having them shown, he says he just wanted to do something.

ADEL: Every day when I go to school, to college, there's, like, dead bodies on the street and people, you know, destroy the houses and burn cars and things like that, and - well, I never know what to do to try to help the situation. Through this, I thought that maybe I can share, you know, everything that's happening here with people around the world, and maybe knowing the truth would help.

SUTHERLAND: "Hometown Baghdad" was the brainchild of a New York production company called Chat the Planet. Its producers got in touch with Iraqi filmmaker Fady Hadid. He found the three stars after auditioning dozens of applicants. He says the Iraqi crew were all afraid, especially of going to Adel's neighborhood, but, he adds, they did go there and it was worth the risk.

Mr. FADY HADID (Filmmaker, Iraq): Because it truly made our message come true by showing the other parts of the world how Iraqis live.

SUTHERLAND: But Hadid, too, doesn't want that life anymore. He's been accepted at USC Film School in Los Angeles and hopes to leave Iraq in a few months.

During one piece shot in Adel's neighborhood titled "Anger, Pain, Death, Madness," Adel was shown spray-painting one of the ubiquitous concrete walls that have gone up all across the city in an attempt to deter car bombs, visibly angry as he rants about the situation in Baghdad.

ADEL: And the best-case scenario, living here - you kind of live like an animal. You just want to survive, that's all. One thing, just like that, you're gone. There's really no escape. It's sort of a ladder.

SUTHERLAND: Adel says the situation has only gotten worse since "Hometown Baghdad" was first filmed.

ADEL: I have a friend who once put it, like, he said, we're living now because we're not dead yet.

SUTHERLAND: Adel hopes to reclaim his life by leaving Iraq. He graduates from college soon and hopes to go to another country - any country, he says, that will have him.

JJ Sutherland, NPR News, Baghdad.

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