Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: My Beloved Enemy

Changing the Future – Through the Eyes of French Filmmakers, An Iraq Veteran, and Iraqi Americans

Iraq veteran Alejandro Villatoro was trained to view everyone in Iraq as a potential threat, with a weapon pointed at them. After a while, he began to ask himself, “The Iraqi people, were they ever our enemy?”

When the documentary My Beloved Enemy was released last week, I was anxious to watch the stories of Iraqi Americans, especially that of my mom, Shamamta. French filmmakers Claire Jeantet and Fabrice Catérini did a great job portraying the real lives of this immigrant population. But what they also did was weave within these stories the testimony of a young Iraqi veteran whose observation and honesty is truly touching.

“Coming back from the war I was confused,” said Villatoro. “I wasn’t sure if what I did was right for my country or the Iraqi people.”

Villatoro ended up joining Veterans Against War, which helped him heal and put him in peace with himself.

“I’m still proud of where I came from, and I still sometimes wear my uniform,” he said. “But I have taken a proactive role to educate the community about the consequences of war.”

Villatoro can’t forget the past, but he has learned to forgive himself in order to move forward. This is how he, and the people who made and participated in this film, can help change the future.

http://my-beloved-enemy.inediz.com/?a=387 (click here to watch My Beloved Enemy)

MBE_Backstage-7

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Iraqi-American Stories, Shown by French Filmmakers

I’m sitting at my computer, having my usual morning coffee and writing my next post about the web documentary My Beloved Enemy: Iraqi-American Stories, since their trailer was just released online. Suddenly the phone rings and I see a strange out-of-the-country number. I answer and lo and behold it’s Claire, one of the French directors of the web documentary.

My Beloved Enemy, which includes my mother’s story of how she attained her US citizenship, will be released December 10th. In early September, there were three crowded screenings of this web documentary at Visa pour l’Image, the premiere International Festival held in Perpignan, France.

“Claire, this project is great, but so is its artistic quality,” I said, after having viewed the trailer.

She told me how in France they recently had this debate of whether a journalist can combine artistic work into their story or if they must remain objective. In my opinion, journalists with a lot of courage and strong feelings cannot keep their feelings to themselves or hide it from their work. That is why in recent years so many artists have dove into independent projects, so they can unleash their own heartfelt truths. Plus, no reporting is truly objective. Look at CNN and Fox News!

Also, given what Claire told me previously, that the audience at the festival was touched and impressed by the Iraqi-American stories they watched on the big screen, I say, use the artistic and journalistic and whatever other talents God gave to inspire, educate, and shed light on the world.

My Beloved Enemy

Documentary about my mom – Coming in September!

Mom (3)

Remember the three beautiful filmmakers from France who honored my home with their visit? Well, they just informed me that the documentary about my mother’s experience in attaining her US citizenship is coming out next month. It will be posted on their website, http://www.mybelovedenemy.com , sometime in September.

My Beloved Enemy is a project portraying Iraqi-American stories ten years after the start of the war. The film crew toured different parts of the United States to show the challenges and triumphs that various Iraqi-American individuals and families face.

With all the misconceptions and stereotypes that exist out there in the mainstream media, this kind of project is especially important today. It shows the everyday truth that is neglected, overlooked and undermined. Yet it is this truth that could help us put an end to unnecessary killings, even wars, that were ignited by misconceptions and stereotypes.

It is also important because in 2007, the U.S. refugee program began admitting Iraqis to the country, to date some 85,000. Still more are entering the United States every day. What better way to know the people who are to become our neighbors than to watch a real heartfelt documentary about them!

My Unexpected French Guests

France

I was working on my book when I received a call from a friend attorney. She said there were French reporters/filmmakers doing a documentary entitled “My Beloved Enemy” about Iraqi Americans. They were looking for Warina Zaya Bashou, who at 111 years old became the second oldest person to be granted a US citizenship. I’d interviewed Warina and wrote an article about her last year. Unfortunately, Warina passed away a few months ago.

My friend asked permission to give the French team my phone number and the next thing I knew I had three beautiful and gracious French people at my door – an attractive blonde woman and two tall and dark handsome men. With the presence of my mother and my children, we ended up having a little brunch together and learning much from each other. And my mom was interviewed about her experience in attaining her citizenship in 1997, which was a tremendous accomplishment for her – never having gone to school.

As we interacted, I couldn’t help but think about the words of my Native American teacher. “If you stay long enough in one place the whole world will pass by.”

My love for France started in 1999. I was visiting London with a friend when she and I decided to hop over to Paris for a day. Yes, a day! Who does that? People were known to pack up and move to France permanently and we expected to get our heart’s full in a day?

The moment we landed in Paris, we loved it. The city was so alive that I was determined to return and stay a lot longer. That didn’t happen so instead, I tried to swap the experience with movies and books. I bought a copy of “Julie and Julia” two years ago and watched it umpteen times. I watched “Midnight in Paris” in the movie theater and then repeatedly after it was on DVD. If you go in my car right now, you’ll find a CD audio book of “My Life in Paris” by Julia Child. If you look in my purse, you’ll see on the cover of my planner the photo of the EiffelTower.

While I’m certain one day I’ll revisit France, I’m very happy that today it visited me.

http://www.mybelovedenemy.com/