Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Tribute to fallen Iraqi students

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

On June 11th of last year, Iraqi blogger Konfused Kid (KK) lost four of his best friends to a roadside bomb. They were one week away from their college graduation. He made this tribute video for them. It is heart-breaking.

You can see a news piece on the Konfused Kid, who coincidentally is Ausama and his brother’s friend, here. He now lives in Amman, Jordan.

Chilling accounts of near death in Baghdad

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

While we at Chat the Planet work on more distribution outlets for Hometown Baghdad and as we plan a follow up to the project, I have been following a few incredible blogs coming out of Baghdad. It’s hard to imagine that the situation has continued to get worse since we completed shooting HTB late last year. One blogger in particular, Mohammed at Last-of-Iraqis, has had a terrifying few weeks and his blog gives an amazing account of one Iraqi’s repeated close calls with death.

Consider this passage from his post yesterday:

As soon as we got down from the taxi and walked a few steps near the Olympic club , I heard a gun shot !! It was loud with echo!! I’m sure it’s not AK-47 and I’m sure it’s inside the building because of the echo….. Then there was another shot …..It was so scary , so close and so loud , my wife was in panic , she was so scared I pushed her from the side-walk to the building wall (so that we would be a harder target) there was no one in the street but us .We stood there for a few seconds , then there was silence , we decided to continue , we walked and just before the concrete ex-checkpoint there was a gunshot and I saw the impact of the bullet beside me , another one in front of me , I pushed my wife to the nearest building and we hided there.

Or this passage from his post entitled “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” from a few days ago:

I saw a mini bus in the middle of the street , there was glass around it , it was clear that this mini-bus was exposed to drive-by shooting so I concentrated my vision on it and pointed my handy I reached near the bus I heard gun shots!!!it was extremely close to me!!! I turned my head and I saw a police man pointing the AK-47 at me and shouting :”YOU , Stop right now , I swear by Ali I will kill you”

New HTB site launched

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

The new site was redesigned by graphic designer and web developer Marco Castro. Thanks for doing such an awesome job, Marco! My goal with this redesign is threefold: 1) make it easier for HTB new comers to find information about the series and to watch the videos; 2) give new and existing HTB viewers a way to follow news about the cast, crew and Chat the Planet; and 3) give people an easy way to continue conversations that are generated by the videos.

There may be a few kinks left in the site so if something doesn’t work or if links are dead, send me an email or post a message in the forums.

Behind the Scenes

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

With the time that was freed up in our recent schedule change, I’d like to give a behind the scenes glimpse into life in the edit room of Chat the Planet.

Racks of raw footage shipped from our producers in Baghdad.

The episode map that our editors use to plan out the series.

The editing computer where our senior editor cuts the pieces.

Our senior editor, Barrett Hawes, at work.

New episode coming soon.

Schedule Change

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

As we wind down the series, we are making some changes to the final episodes. They are getting much better. We’re combining previous versions of the final pieces and now they work a lot better. As a result, they will be a bit longer and, as previously reported, there are fewer of them. Due to these changes, we’re altering the release schedule a bit. New episodes will now come out every Monday and Thursday.

HTB reduces number of episodes to 38 and looks to future

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

Sorry for the bad news…but we’ve decided to cut the final episode count from 45 to 38. We had to do it for a variety of reasons that aren’t totally important - scheduling, storytelling efficiency, etc. Whatever the reasons are, I think the remaining episodes are really powerful and that they will be a fitting close to the series.

I also want to say that being a part of this series has been one of the best experiences I have ever had. The friendships I’ve made will last a lifetime. And the emotional impact of being so close to this project and the people involved will be with me for a while. I may work for Chat the Planet and I may be part of the team that produced Hometown Baghdad, but I’ve also been an avid viewer of HTB. And watching Adel, Ausama and Saif live their incredible lives has moved me and taught me more than I can say. I am truly sad that in a few weeks there will be no new web videos.

But that’s not to say that Hometown Baghdad is done. Chat the Planet is just getting started. And this website will continue to exist in some form or another. Once there are no new videos, I am planning on doing a bit of a rehaul of the site. I want to have it make sense for a series that exists online in its entirety rather than looking like a defunct blog. I will still add content to it and hopefully Saif, Adel and Ausama will continue to tell us where and how they are. But the blog format probably won’t be so front and center. I’m thinking forums, a more user friendly episode guide, and a bit more background material. But mostly I’m thinking I want to know what others think. So feel free to post your thoughts in the comments or send me emails.

Iraqi Self-Expression

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

Right before we began releasing our videos on March 19th, I posted an mp3 on this blog of Saif and his friends Zaid and Ahmed playing an Iraqi folk song. That post generated a ton of dialogue and interest. I think it was the collective shock and excitement of seeing young Iraqis express themselves artistically. It was something that many people had never seen before. And that experience has been repeated many times throughout the last few weeks as we have released our videos.

I think that these moments of amazement - of epiphanies and revelations triggered by what we find online - are products of the power and reach of the internet. And if we, as citizens of the wired world, help spread these items of interest further, we can do a small part to decrease the alienation, disconnection, apathy and hostility that divide our world.

In that spirit, I wanted to point out a few examples of things making their way around the web.

First, Zaid (see “My Best Friend Zaid” and “Iraqi Man”) sent me the following five pictures over the weekend. I can’t give it a better intro than he did. He writes (I did light editing at his request):

There is a wall being created around my city of Al Ahdhamia to separate it from other places in Baghdad. They, the US Army and our Government, say it will help prevent fighting and bloodshed. But it is only creating another face of sectarianism.
The people of Al Ahdhamia rejected the wall but the US Army and our government finished it.
But the interesting thing is that artists have painted wonderful pictures on that wall. :) This Iraqi artist has never been known and I guess they only paint as a hobby. It is wonderful. Check it out and I hope you put it on our site along with some words of mine.

Update: These pictures are not of the wall in Ahdhamia. According to a reputable source: “These concrete walls are on Al-Sa’doon street, and they are there to protect a hotel called “Baghdad Hotel” which was a building for the CIA and then a residence for the members of the Iraq Governing Councel in 2003.” (Thanks, Ahmed!) I am still leaving Zaid’s words because I think his point about the wall in Ahdhamia is important and his excitement about the art is still valid and very real.

Iraqi Wall Art 3 Iraqi Wall Art 4 Iraqi Wall Art 5
Iraqi Wall Art 1 Iraqi Wall Art 2

The second thing I’m linking to is a short documentary about Saif’s brother, Mohammed, who lives in Paris. Zaid linked to it in the comments but I thought it deserved getting pointed out again. Link. Mohammad is working on a few other projects that I will try to post here as they become available.

The third item is bound to be a bit controversial. It is a powerpoint slide show that Ausama sent me over the weekend and asked me to post. Some may see it as divisive but I hope that everyone can see that whoever created it was mainly motivated by two things: a) pride for his country; and b) sadness over the situation that has developed. See it here.

Cover of the Times of London!

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

James Hider at the Times of London wrote a piece about Hometown Baghdad today…and they smacked us right on the front cover. They even threw up a picture of Saif and Noor! This is truly an honor. In honor of this honor, here is a ridiculous shot of me holding up the paper.

…I guess I need a haircut, huh?