500 Miles To Babylon is a film I made about Iraq during the early months of the U.S. occupation. I was working as an independent videographer with Pratap Chatterjee, who writes for CorpWatch, and who was researching war profiteering and corporate malfeasance by the companies who were being paid billions of dollars to “reconstruct Iraq”, which of course they had no intention of doing, and they never did. But they were paid anyway. Go figure.
Anyway it was 2003 and Iraq was wide open. Pratap and I lived in dingy hotels and cheap apartments in Baghdad, side by side with Iraqis and a motley assortment of shoestring journalists, human rights volunteers, and assorted oddballs. We rode public transit around the city, shooting footage and writing stories, and we all moved freely around Iraq.
At that time all the Iraqis were so hopeful, so glad to be rid of Saddam’s hideous dictatorship, and they so wanted to believe that the U.S. was going to come in and make everything so much better …. I didn’t want to discourage them, but Pratap and I weren’t very optimistic about the U.S.’s real intentions in invading their country.
It all went south, as they say, pretty rapidly. I wrote about it as I saw it go down for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and you can read my dispatches here. By May 2004 it had gotten too dangerous to do any reporting any more; people were getting kidnapped left right and center, and foreigners were getting beheaded on television. Myself and a few others made a dangerous trip into embattled Fallujah to deliver medical supplies and we barely made it out alive, ourselves being arrested and held for a day or so by paranoid Iraqi resistance fighters who thought we were spies. It was time to get out, and we did. I didn’t return until 2008, and things were much, much different.
I cut a film about the whole experience, the aforementioned 500 Miles To Babylon. This is a trailer for the film:
I screened it at festivals and a whole slew of venues across the country, and it’s most recent showing was at The Chicago Anarchist Film Festival. Like all the other films and suchlike I’ve made, you can get a copy by emailing me via this website.