Sent to Iraq to research a film about Saddam Hussein’s trial, BBC journalist Sean McAllister instead found himself palling around with a celebrity pianist dubbed “The Liberace of Baghdad.” Resulting docu is a vivid, at times grotesquely funny you-are-there account of eight months in a newly “liberated” nation that’s still very much a war zone. Fest travel is assured, with broadcast potential strong wherever programmers are willing to present material none-too-flattering toward American forces and policies.
At the hotel where most foreign journos stay, McAllister becomes intrigued by lounge singer/pianist Samir Peter, a colorful character with a heady past of national popularity and womanizing. His fortunes fell when the Hussein regime frowned upon his Westernized tastes (both musical and amorous). While he’s happy to see Saddam gone, his adult children feel differently, and nearly everyone thinks the ruler’s ousting has only brought on new corruption and greater chaos. As foreigners begin getting kidnapped — including some of helmer’s pals — and bombings remain a daily hazard, Peter grows ever-more fatalistic, McAllister more panicky. Raw tech package is apt for pic that viscerally captures life in a state of siege.