Review: Hometown Baghdad

Perhaps I was the only one it miss it, but until yesterday (when it appeared on ABC’s Nightline) I was unaware of this incredible project. Hometown Baghdad is a series of vignettes–or episodes if you prefer–about what life is like in modern Baghdad.

The show, which was released from March to June of this year, uses short (two to eight minute) episodes to show many aspects of what life is like for its three protagonists–all middle-class male twenty-somethings living in Baghdad. Though we could rightly question the reasons for choosing such similar people, the show is still compelling, interesting, and worthy of attention.

Hometown Baghdad logoHometown Baghdad shows how people live day-to-day in the war-torn county’s capital. That people are still living in Baghdad was something of a revelation for me. This is something that is clear in the abstract, if asked the question, “Are there average people living in Baghdad?” I would have of course answered yes.

Hometown Baghdad not only asks that question, it answers it. We see these three men struggle with some very normal things: friends leaving, dating, surviving summer heat. And yet we also see them pinned into their homes because of gunfights in the street outside, worrying about getting home by curfew, and the results of some misguided US military actions.

This incredibly ordinary life in incredibly extraordinary circumstances was, for me, the surprise. These men, though their country is full of frightening events, keep going outside of their door. Keep seeing their friends, keep going to school. I’d never have thought normal life was possible inside a war-zone, but I suppose I’m merely learning that all life is normal.

Hometown Baghdad also conjures up some complicated questions. As Saif complains about life in modern Baghdad, I wondered if it was better for him under Saddam. I wondered if it would be better if the US forces exited Iraq immediately. I wondered if the surge has had a positive impact on life in Baghdad.

These questions are not unusual, but the way we can see them through Hometown Baghdad is. Rather then seeing the “war” as a question of “winning,” “casualties,” or “terrorism” we have to question its impact on everyday life for Iraqis.

Does this open a magic window through which we can see the proper way for America to proceed in wading through this quagmire? Of course not.

But it renews our ability to consider the outcomes in light of other factors. To consider not only the lives of American soldiers, their families, and politicians, but the lives of average Iraqi citizens. It is this which is new, and very worthwhile. And that is the reason that you should watch Hometown Baghdad.

, ,

3 responses to “Review: Hometown Baghdad”

  1. I recently held a lengthy discussion about “empathy”. We concluded that it is a misunderstood concept, or worse, a non-existent concept. We never could decide if it is a learned or inherent characteristic. We also concluded that it is more often than not replaced by “sympathy”.