Texting their girlfriends, playing air guitar and avoiding roadside bombs on the way to school — those are just some of the elements that make up a day in the life of four Iraqi kids in “The Boys From Baghdad High,” a doc co-produced by the BBC and HBO.
Doc, which received its world preem at Sheffield’s Doc/Fest on Nov. 7, follows four Iraqi friends — a Kurd, Shia, Christian and mixed Sunni-Shia — through an academic year in the increasingly lawless city.
U.K.-based shingles Renegade Pictures and StoryLabTV gave the kids cameras and asked them to capture the daily reality of their lives. Given the lack of security in Baghdad, the four boys were only allowed to film at home, school or friends’ houses.
The escalating violence also influenced the casting, with the final decision left to the school’s principal on the basis of which families could be trusted not to tell insurgents they were working for foreign media. Two of the friends’ classmates died during the course of the year, one the result of a roadside bomb.
“Everyday millions of kids go to school, but these kids have to go through checkpoints, deal with roadside bombs, Americans driving by in Humvees with their machine guns,” says co-producer Laura Winter. “They’re like kids anywhere in the world who dream of being rock stars and like girls, except they live in this bad, insane place called Baghdad.”
The 90-minute doc, which was completed just hours before its fest preem, airs on BBC2 on Jan. 8. HBO will air a shorter, 75-minute, version in the U.S.