LONDON — Texting their girlfriends, playing air guitar and avoiding a roadside bomb on the way to school. Those are just some of the incidents that make up a day in the life of the four Iraqi kids in “The Boys From Baghdad High,” a new doc co-produced by the BBC and HBO Documentary Films.
UK-based shingles Renegade Pictures and StoryLabTV handled producing duties.
Doc, which received its world preem at Sheffield’s Doc/Fest on Nov. 7, follows the plight of four Iraqi friends — a Kurd, a Shia, a Christian and a mixed Sunni-Shia — through an academic year in the increasingly lawless city.
They were given cameras by the producers and asked 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, at school or at friends’ houses.
The escalating violence in the city also influenced the casting of the kids, 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 with a foreign media organization. Initial choice of eight kids eventually was whittled down to the final four who appear in the film.
Two of the boys’ classmates died during the course of the year, with one the result of being caught up in 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. “We were looking for a way to tell this story in a fresh way and the only people who haven’t had a voice with all the reporting out of Iraq are kids. 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 cost half a million dollars and was only completed hours before the world preem, airs on BBC 2 on Jan. 8.
HBO will air a shorter, 75-minute version in the U.S.