|The fifth edition of "Inside Iraq: The Untold Story" is playing tonight at the Aggie Theatre at 5:30 and 8:30 PM. Admission is $5.|
For the war in Iraq to stand out as one of the most controversial, argued and discussed events in U.S. history, it's completely baffling how little Americans know about the lives that are being directly affected by actions taken by the United States.
This was the thought that put adventure journalist/filmmaker Mike Shiley and his camera smack dab in the middle of Iraq for two months beginning in December 2003.
"I lived in Egypt for a year and saw how the media and the military characterizes people as all the same and after 9/11 happened when we bombed Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the bombing, it just showed me that we are lacking cultural understanding."
Shiley traveled from the city of Baghdad through the Sunni triangle and throughout Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, eventually embedding with the Army, wearing a uniform and staying in the barracks with the lower level military. He said that even military personnel don't have much, if any, cultural understanding of the Iraqi people.
"Lot's of the soldiers I encountered only cared about getting home alive and in one piece. Also, only one out of every seven people even leaves the base, so usually they won't even see an Iraqi person at all."
During his travel through the country, Shiley didn't have a single confrontation with the Iraqi people about the fact that he's an American.
"The Iraqi people are savvy enough to separate the American people from the government," Shiley said. "They like America and they like Americans; the thing they are mad about is that the U.S. promised to rebuild their country and didn't."
Shiley was in Iraq at a time when it was a relatively safe place to travel and document. He said at that time there were only fourteen insurgent attacks a day. Today there are easily one hundred.
"Something like what I did couldn't be done today; it's far too dangerous of a place to be," Shiley said.
According to the documentary's Web site, www.insideiraqthemovie.com, there were several times when he was nearby during an insurgent attack and managed to capture some of it on film. The site also tells of several times he was filming a place that would be attacked and destroyed only a few days later, which goes to show that even though it was safer in 2003, it was by no means a peaceful place.
Shiley made it back home safely and first edited the more than 70 hours of footage into a documentary film in September 2004, re-editing it four more times since.