Once upon a Time in Iraq

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[edit] General Information

War Documentary hosted by Andy Serkis, published by BBC in 2020 - English narration

[edit] Cover

Image: Once-upon-a-Time-in-Iraq-Cover.jpg

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With unique personal archive from civilians and soldiers from both sides of the conflict, this series takes viewers closer to the realities of war and life under Isis than they have ever been before.

[edit] War

Waleed Nesyif was 18 when George Bush gave Saddam Hussein just 48 hours to leave Iraq. He was, like many Iraqi teenagers at that time, infatuated by the West. But while many of his generation grew up enjoying songs by the Backstreet Boys, Waleed formed Iraq's first heavy metal band. By comparison to the American movies Waleed and his friends enjoyed, life under Saddam was oppressive, fuelled by fear and paranoia. If war meant life would eventually be more like the way it was in the movies, then in Waleed's words, 'let's get this s**t done'. For others, it was more complicated. Um Qusay, a farmer's wife from a small village near Tikrit, was under no illusions about the cruelty of Saddam's regime. That did not mean however that she wanted a foreign army to invade her country to dispose of him. There were benefits to living in a police state. The streets were very safe, and if you did not oppose the government directly, you were free to live how you wished. Life might not have been perfect, but many felt that a war with America would be something that Iraq would not survive. Sally was just eight years old when American troops entered Baghdad. She had been told to be fearful of them, but when a soldier offered her a sweet, she decided that the stories she had been taught at school about the foreign imperialist devils were wrong, as only good people could be this kind. As the statue to their former dictator falls in Firdos Square, there is a real sense of hope felt by many Iraqis. Maybe, just maybe, Iraq would emerge a better country - perhaps even as one of the best countries in the world. That was the very real hope of Ahmed Al Bashir. Now Iraq's most famous comedian, as a teenager in 2003, Ahmed was excited by the opportunity to speak English with real Americans, waving at the invading troops and inviting them into his house. From his hotel room in northern Iraq, photographer Ashley Gilbertson watched, along with the rest of the world, as Saddam's statue was torn down. ‘I've missed the war' were his initial thoughts. What he and many others did not realise at the time was that this was not the war. The war was still to come. The initial hope, felt by many Iraqis, would be tragically short lived once the realities of occupation with no postwar plan hit the streets of Baghdad.

[edit] Insurgency

When Lieutenant Colonel Nate Sassaman arrived in Iraq in 2003, his belief in the task ahead - of delivering democracy and stability to the Iraqi people - was unquestioning. Sassaman was an inspirational leader to his men, and many felt that he was destined one day to become a general. Six months into his tour, caught in the political and literal crossfire of the insurgency, his good intentions and belief systems were shattered. Unprepared for the hostile environment he found himself in, with little support coming from Washington and taking daily attacks from insurgents, Sassaman was pushed to the very darkest regions of his psyche. Alaa Adel was 12 years old in the summer of 2003, when she too was caught in crossfire on the streets of Baghdad. She suffered life-changing injuries when she was hit in the face by shrapnel from one of the first roadside bombs, which were planted by insurgents and intended for American forces. Looking back at that time, both Sassaman and Alaa question the benefits of the war in Iraq. While one struggles with the guilt of their actions, the other lives with bristling resentment and ongoing anger.

[edit] Fallujah

At the start of the Iraq War in 2003, over 600 journalists and photographers are given permission by the US government to follow the war as embedded reporters. Dexter Filkins and photographer Ashley Gilbertson are working for the New York Times when they enter Fallujah with Bravo Company in November 2004. It is the most intense battle of the entire war and the biggest the marines have fought since Vietnam. For the duration of the battle, both journalists live with the marines, filing their stories as they are constantly shot at. Illustrated by thousands of photographs taken by Gilbertson that week, many of them never before published, as well as unseen material taken by the marines themselves, this film takes viewers into the heart of the battle. Gilbertson's decision to capture an image of an Iraqi sniper shooting from inside a minaret changes not only his life but the lives of the soldiers with him. Nidhal Abed has lived in Fallujah her entire life. On 4 November 2004, her two-year-old son Mustafa is running a high fever. She leaves her home to take Mustafa to the doctors just a few streets away. What happens next ensures their lives are also never the same again. With unique archive of the battle itself, this story is told through the marines, journalists and residents of Fallujah.

[edit] Saddam

When Saddam Hussein is captured by coalition forces in December 2003, politicians in the White House believe this will be the turning point they need to bring democracy to Iraq. Their task is to root out the minority forces still supporting Saddam and bring security and stability to the country. John Nixon, senior analyst in the CIA, is the first to interrogate Saddam after his capture. Having been the object of Nixon's obsession for years, the brutal dictator is now face to face with him. Here is his chance to get answers to the questions that have long haunted him. Saddam's answers, however, leave Nixon both surprised and horrified. During the five-week interrogation, Saddam explains, 'You Americans, you don't understand what you have done. Iraq will become the playing field for international terrorism.' Prophetic words play out in the grim reality of the years following Saddam's execution. As the Americans celebrate the capture of Saddam, a new chapter of the war begins, as sectarian differences, long controlled by the Iraqi dictator, flare up to plunge Iraq into a gruesome civil war.

[edit] Legacy

In 2004, Waleed Nesyif, heavy metal musician, is forced to flee Iraq following death threats for working for American journalists as a translator. By the time America finally withdraws all its troops from Iraq in 2011, he is a Canadian citizen, happily married and university educated. A year later, he returns to Iraq for the first time since leaving. It is not the same country he left. Naori Al Maliki is in his second term as prime minister, and his Shia-led sectarian policies reignite long-held Sunni grievances. The door is open for Isis. The legacy of the 2003 invasion plays out in a most brutal manner. Omar Mohmamed, a university professor from Mosul, remembers clearly the night armed men invade his city, proclaiming they are the Islamic State. For the next three years, Omar lives under one of the most brutal regimes the world has ever known, witnessing daily executions, hand cutting and stonings. As the anonymous author of a blog exposing the atrocities committed by Isis, he risks his life to share the realities of life under Isis with the world. He is not the only one to resist. Um Qusay risks her life by sheltering Shia soldiers in her house after they have escaped being executed by Isis. Seeing past sectarian differences, she explains, ‘I risked my life to help those boys because they were Iraqis'.

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: x265 CABAC Main@L4
  • Video Bitrate: CRF 21 (~2108Kbps)
  • Video Resolution: 1920x1080
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Frame Rate: 25 FPS
  • Audio Codec: AAC-LC
  • Audio Bitrate: Q=0.45 VBR 48KHz (~128Kbps)
  • Audio Channels: 2
  • Run-Time: 59 mins
  • Number Of Parts: 5
  • Part Size: 952 MB (average)
  • Source: HDTV
  • Encoded by: JungleBoy

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