This is such an honor. As a tried and true internet geek, the Webby Awards are about the highest set of honors in the entire world to me. So I am ridiculously proud of everyone here at Chat and I’m proud to the point of drooling of the brave Iraqi crew and subjects. I even just called a very groggy Fady Hadid to give him the good news, momentarily having forgot about the time difference. (Sorry, Fady!)
This series was a long, hard, stressful and rewarding struggle. And this is a nice cap on the whole experience. But we can’t get too euphoric. As we celebrate, our hearts go out to the people who helped us make Hometown Baghdad who are still in danger, who are still struggling. With any luck, this nomination can make my dream of working with them again to tell Iraqi refugee stories in Leaving Hometown Baghdad a reality. Even though everyone at Chat makes fun of me for liking that name.
Now that I got your attention, allow me to disappoint. There is no scandal or disagreement. We at Chat the Planet continue to think YouTube is an incredible force in media that allows unusual stories like those in Hometown Baghdad to find an audience. However, the truth is that we are in the process of finding television distribution for Hometown Baghdad and we want to make sure the process goes smoothly. Television distribution for Hometown Baghdad would dramatically increase the amount of people that get to meet Ausama, Adel and Saif. Their stories and lives would be able to bring unseen realities of life in Baghdad to an even greater audience than we’ve already reached. It’s an incredible opportunity for us, for the videos and for our three friends.
To those of you who have blogged about HTB and embedded or linked to our videos from YouTube, I’m sorry. Same goes for people who have recently forwarded YouTube links to friends.
Meanwhile, the videos will be made available on our website on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.
Update: The HTB videos are back on our site. Watch away!
Back in January, HTB producer Fady Hadid sent me a translated letter/poem that Nezar Hussein, one of HTB’s talented cameramen, wrote about living as an artist in Baghdad. Moved, I forwarded it to all of my contacts, including an editor at Good Magazine. The letter got passed around the office there and they printed it in their 2007 media issue. It is powerful and worth reading.
Good, for those of you who don’t know, was started by Ben Goldhirsh with the idea that young people want to do well in the world by doing good for the world. It’s an intriguing concept and a great magazine - well written, artfully designed, etc. They also donate all of their subscription revenue to a great group of charities.
Scott Simmons did a lengthy interview with me about the production and post production process on Hometown Baghdad for Studio Daily. The piece also reveals more about the history of the project and the thinking behind it than most other articles. From the intro: “I spoke with Mike DiBenedetto, the online distribution manager, about the project, how it came to be and about the technical issues and challenges faced during the production, and especially the post-production, when creating a series that was shot so far away.”Read on.
A week ago a monumental landmark was achieved for Hometown Baghdad. We didn’t reach ten billion views. A sudden traffic overload did not shut down our site. We didn’t translate the videos into any new language. Nothing like that. But this milestone is in many ways even more important and even more exciting. A Hometown Baghdad viewer from America met Saif face-to-face in Jordan! I think this is so incredibly cool. After the experience of watching HTB, I know many of us count Saif, Ausama, Zaid, and Adel among our friends. But there is something really special about a viewer of the series showing up in Amman and crashing at Saif’s place. I know I’m jealous.
Here’s the story (as related to me by Saif):
Kate Jordan was watching episode 17 of HTB, “Hubbly Bubbly,” and she started thinking, “Mmm, that looks good.” Sometime around then, Saif left a comment on the blog inviting anyone to come try his hookah in Jordan. That was three months ago. Coincidentally, Kate and her friend Dan Irby had been planning a back packing trip through the Middle East. They got in touch with Saif and told him they were taking him up on his shisha offer. And Saif not only obliged but he invited them to stay in a spare room in his apartment. So Kate and Dan spent four days with Saif, smoking the shisha, hanging out with his family, doing some sightseeing together, and watching the Iraqi soccer team coast to victory. Kate and Dan are keeping a blog about their trip. The most recent post tells of their first impressions of Amman.
Dan, Saif and Kate in Saif’s apartment
Saif’s family welcomes Kate and Dan
The real reason Kate and Dan came to Amman!
So who’s next? Who’s going to visit Ausama in Kurdistan? Who’s going to hang with Adel wherever he may be?
I know, I know. I jumped the gun by announcing our upcoming Nightline spot back in mid June. I believe I said that we’d be on in the “upcoming days.” Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to a month. Anyway, that’s all history and I’d like to announce on good sources that we will be featured on ABC’s Nightline tonight at 11:35pm EST. It should be noted that the piece on HTB will only run in the US version and not the international version that airs on Middle East Broadcast and other non-US distributors.
A few weeks ago, the World News video podcast included some of the footage that will go into the Nightline feature. Check that out here. But tonight’s piece should be a bit longer with more interviews. I’m pretty excited to watch it and immensely thankful that the press continues to give Adel, Saif, Ausama and our incredible crew the attention they deserve. This feature alone will introduce HTB to a few million more viewers.
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.