Bridge to Baghdad
a film by Jon Alpert

The Buddhist Peace Group is making arrangements to sponsor showings of the 'Bridge to Baghdad' at various times and places in the Capitol Area. This film, a recently released documentary produced a week before the US invasion of Iraq, shows a video-conference that recently took place between Iraqi and American teens/young adults.

As showings are sheduled over the next few weeks, we will post them here.

Where Date Time Who Contact
Sage College,
Upton Center
April 2 12:40 PM Open to Public Allies Center for Social Responsibility
Union College April 1 4:00 PM Open to Public

About the Film

Story: Burning the "Bridge to Baghdad": as War Begins, the Media Censors the Voices of Ordinary Iraqi People

The corporate media networks have "embedded" hundreds of journalists with the US military. But they have not one with an Iraqi family.

12-time Emmy award-winning TV journalist Jon Alpert wanted to create dialogue and bring the voices of ordinary Iraqis to ordinary Americans. He traveled to Baghdad last month to set up a video conference with Iraqi students in Baghdad and American students in New York.

The American Museum of Radio and Television was sponsoring the event. But as Jon Alpert drove from Amman, Jordan on the road to Baghdad, they called him, and backed out.

Jon produced the video dialogue anyway. When he returned to the US, not one network would air his piece.

[An audio report on this film, from Democracy Now.]

More About the Film
from producer JON ALPERT:

Bridge to Baghdad : A Youth Dialogue

The Event
On Saturday March 1st, while world leaders met behind closed doors, 6 young Americans and 7 young Iraqis stepped forward to participate in a historic dialogue. At Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV) in a loft in lower Manhattan and at the Orfali Art Gallery in Baghdad these youths were able to transcend time zones and national borders to speak freely as peers with the help of satellite technology.

The Participants
World-renowned documentary filmmaker Jon Alpert and his team traveled to Baghdad weeks before the satellite conversation in search of the true voice of Iraqi youths. After struggling against the many demands of the Iraqi Ministry of Information, Alpert managed to assemble a group of young Iraqis willing to speak openly about their lives, their families, and their opinions & voices rarely heard in American media.

What’s more, Alpert was able to film their lives intensively the entire week before the show, creating unique video diaries of each of the Iraqi participants. In these stirring cinema verite pieces, the full life of a young Iraqi citizen is revealed as Saif, 21, shows the camera the steel metal doors his parents recently installed throughout his house for fear that the American soldiers would be coming “door by door” or when Hamsa, 22, takes the viewer around her home, now empty as the furniture has been sold off for money in order for them to survive. Walid, a 17-year old alienated teenager, shows us the blank wall where his army officer father tore down his rock and roll posters and later gives us a concert with his heavy metal band.

These riveting seven individuals were joined by an equally diverse group of American faces and opinions including a former army soldier, the head of an anti-war student movement group, a first-generation Korean immigrant, and the son of a conservative Lutheran pastor.

The Conversation
As the inheritors of the good and bad consequences of their leaders’ decisions, these youth were anxious to discuss anything and everything directly with their peers. The dialogue lasted for ninety minutes and covered the Backstreet Boys and the realities of traditional Muslim dating practices to the larger, pressing realities of a possible war, failing UN inspections, and the absence of free media and public dissent in Iraq. When asked about Hussein-imposed restrictions on their lives, Aisha, a beautiful 20-year old aspiring clothes designer, expressed frustration in not being able to choose her own career path (she now studies computers) and Suha, the fiery Hajib-wearing young Muslim, spoke enthusiastically about her deep- seated (but unobtainable) desire to visit Washington, DC. American panelists like Katrina, 22, who entered the dialogue adamantly against the war left the conversation with new considerations. She was surprised to find that the Iraqi youths seemed to align her anti-war stance to an implicit support of the Hussein regime. “I am so used to being the crazy liberal…and this shifted the spectrum a whole lot for me,” said Baker when joined by the other American panelists in a filmed debriefing after the satellite feed. Other panelists expressed similar wonderings as the conversation brought new nuance and empathy to issues usually reported and explained by those many years older than themselves. “All I could think was they were just like me,” one American audience member stated repeatedly after the show.

The Struggle to Broadcast
In the three weeks since the taping of the Bridge to Baghdad youth dialogue, the producers from DCTV and NextNext Entertainment have struggled to find a television outlet in order to offer American audiences the chance to hear the voices and opinions of their own youth and the youth of Iraq on the war. They were turned down by every major television broadcaster in the country. With a war now commencing in Iraq, the producers of Bridge to Baghdad are seeking out alternative media outlets across the country in order to air this historic dialogue. [Alpert's Bridges page] ]

[A 10-minute video excerpt of the film.]