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The Boys from Baghdad High (2007)

Four students from different religious backgrounds in Baghdad document their final year in high school.
2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


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Credited cast:
Hayder Khalid ...
Mohammad Raed ...
Anmar Refat ...
Ali Shadman ...


During 2006-07, four students keep a video diary of their final year at Tariq bin Ziad High School in Baghdad. As violence escalates, the four prepare to take the National Exams they must pass in June to secure their diploma. They are Ali, a Kurd, Anmar, a Christian who starts the school year not having heard from his girlfriend for a few days, and a Shia and a Sunni - Hayder, a rap poet and songwriter, and Mohammad, fatherless, living with his mother and extended family. Amid explosions, gunfire, and power outages, they study, wrestle, play games, listen to music, dance, and talk boy talk. Mid-year, one moves north, safe but bored. Will they pass their exams? Will they live? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Documentary | War




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Release Date:

8 January 2008 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Baghdad High  »

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User Reviews

How to smile and laugh in the face of violence
10 May 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Four high school students are handed digital cameras with which they will record their senior year of high school. This documentary sounds pretty familiar, on the face of it. It's been done many times before. The twist here is that the high school is in Baghdad, one of the most violent and war-ravaged cities in the world, and the four (all boys) would appear to be enemies to the outside world -- they and their classmates are Muslims, Christians, Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. What they have in common, though, is that they are all teenagers, and we know where this is going right from the start -- the message here is that kids are the same all over the world.

The premise of "Baghdad High" is not a novel idea by any means. In fact, I saw two similar films at the previous festival I attended. The challenge here is to make it work in an original way, not just to pick four cool kids who can make the viewer laugh and cry, but to touch the heart by showing the adult world just how immune "ordinary" teens can be in the face of war. They have the same desires, hopes, and dreams as high school kids everywhere -- they just want to get good grades and have fun. The difference here is that they might be blown up by a roadside bomb on the way home from school.

One of the biggest surprises of "Baghdad High" is that the boys are more curiously endearing and their friendships much sweeter than similar documentaries shot in U.S. high schools. Their displays of affection for each other and absence of talk about girls and sex is probably a bit more accurate than what American teenage boys would like others to believe about themselves, especially when cameras are pointed at them. There is little of the typical bravado and macho posturing we see with teens in America.

Another surprise is how little discussion of politics takes place in these homes (or in the film itself). Even then, the kids never mention it at all. When the subject is brought up, it's the parents who are asked how they feel about the U.S. presence there. With a shrug, they actually blame both governments. They don't even take sides. They just want the violence to end.

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