San Diego, CA – “Stories form Baghdad U.S.A.,”
a documentary from filmmakers Kevin King and Alex Farnsley will be
have its first public screening on Sunday, June 28, at 1:30 pm at
the San Diego County Library El Cajon Branch. The project was filmed
in El Cajon, a small town just east of San Diego. The screening is
free to the public.
Stories of the war and turmoil in Iraq
continue to appear on the pages of our newspapers and on the screens
of our televisions, but even after years of coverage the story of
the Chaldeans, the Catholics of Iraq, is seldom told.
Kidnappings and murders have devastated a
people who have been Christians since the second century A.D. Prior
to the war there were over one million Chaldeans in Iraq, but today
less than half that number remain.
Many of the recent refugees have barely
escaped with their lives and many have suffered devastating physical
and emotional scars. They have come to California to join the
thousands who have come before them.
Daniel is 17 and is torn between his heritage
and his desire to fit in with his American teenage friends. He
struggles with the restrictions on dating in the Chaldean community
and suffered the taunts of “terrorist” and “why don’t you go back to
your own country,” from his classmates after the events of 9/11.
Ron tells us about his parent’s arranged
marriage, and how a Chaldean tradition disrupted his mother’s
Besma describes her family’s frightening
flight from Iraq to keep her 11-year-old brother from being drafted
into Sadaam’s army to fight in the Iran Iraq War. If they had been
caught her parents would have been hanged and the children
Mery’s family fled to keep her young brothers
from being drafted to fight the Coalition Forces in the Gulf War.
Her parents have been unable to get meaningful employment here and
one of her brothers has abandoned the family and moved away with his
new American wife. She feels he is ashamed of his heritage and that
he has become completely “whitewashed.”
Salah was an art teacher in Baghdad and tells
the story of how a large painting of Jesus survived the destruction
of his family’s belongings untouched.
Wadie is in his 80s. He left Iraq in 1947 to
pursue the promise of the American Dream. He has had a successful
career in California politics and served 28 years in the state
Assembly and Senate.
Tommy is a hip-hop singer whose lyrics upset
the Chaldean Church. His music video about the Iraq War has
attracted worldwide attention. “Stories from Baghdad U.S.A.” will
also shine a light on the strong family values and work ethic that
contribute to American culture, and how that very culture threatens
to erode the admirable heritage and traditions of the Chaldeans.
Kevin King and Alex Farnsley are documentary
filmmakers who often focus on the problems young people have on the
road to adulthood. Their work has earned several regional Emmy’s,
and their film, Dark and Bloody Ground, which chronicles the
impact of a violent murder on two families in a small town in
Kentucky, was recently awarded the coveted Gold Circle Award from
the Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors in Los Angeles.
(additional biographical information: www.baghdadusa.com)
The film will be broadcast on the San Diego
County Television Network in the fall of this year. The filmmakers
will also pursue national and international television distribution
and enter it in film festivals across North America and in the
The 45-minute documentary was made with the
cooperation of the Chaldean community of El Cajon, Chaldean-Middle
Eastern Social Services, St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Cathedral, and
San Diego State University. Zina Salem and Besma Coda, of
Chaldean-Middle Eastern Social Services, were instrumental in
guiding Farnsley and King in making contacts within the community.
Chaldean-Middle Eastern Social Services is an organization offering
cultural services to aid in maximizing the potential and success of
Chaldean communities in San Diego County. CMSS’s mission is to help
Chaldean and Middle Eastern communities in San mDiego to pave the
way towards a better life through assimilation, education and