'Voices from Iraq' was was shot in 1993 - 2 years after the first Gulf War. Iraq was a police state and, like all journalists, we were accompanied by a government minder when we were filming. The many stringers stationed in Baghdad tended to report only on the stand-off between Saddam Hussein's government and the United Nations weapons inspectorate. I wanted to make something different and more intimate - a record of the impact of the war and economic sanctions on the lives of Iraqi civilians. I persuaded the Ministry of Information to allow me to film with people I knew from contacts outside Iraq. This access ultimately meant the film was compromised: I had intended to include 'anti-government' voices from the Iraqi community in the UK but it became obvious that this could be dangerous for the other participants. As it was, one of the families we spent time with in Baghdad was visited every day for 6 weeks by the secret police, asking why I had chosen to film them. I was glad to discover, years after the film was made, that all the participants stood by what they had said on camera.
'Voices from Iraq', then, does not explore the murderous nature of the Iraqi regime. Instead it is a record of war and sanctions as viewed from Baghdad. It was a story that was never adequately told in the west and it makes uncomfortable viewing at times. It also represents an archive of a different kind. In February 2003 myself and my colleague Grant Wakefield were approached by NBC and asked if we had any footage of 'ordinary life' in Iraq. They had already been to the archives of the major US broadcasters and to the BBC, ITN etcetera. That they had to track down two obscure UK film makers to find what they needed reveals a telling fact: in the 13 years these organisations had crews permanently stationed in Baghdad, not one of them had ever filmed scenes from 'ordinary life' in a street, a market, a school, a home . . .
'Voices from Iraq' film was shot on tape. This version is several generations down and it looks a bit grey and grainy which is a shame as the original camerawork by Jabbar Ghareeb was both beautiful and sensitive to our subjects in often difficult situations.
'Voices From Iraq' was bought by RTE Ireland and is distributed by Cinenova
You can read more about my experiences in Iraq at: miriamday.com/category/tales-of-iraq/