Joel Mowbray

Two former MTV producers have accomplished what the entire mainstream media thus far has not: they?ve captured the real life and times of the Iraqi people.

They didn?t do it alone, however.  Producers Eric Manes and Martin Kunert sent 150 digital cameras into Iraq this April with very simple instructions: ?Videotape your neighborhood, shopping area, where you live and work, pray, relax, and play? and interview ?people who have the most meaning in your life.?  (See the entire instructions here.)

The cameras were passed on to friends and family members, and the handheld devices eventually made their way to the Shia south and later to the Kurdish north.  Thousands of Iraqis turned in over 450 hours of footage, and the results surprised even Manes and Kunert.

The finished product, Voices of Iraq, is a taut 75-minute documentary, opening this weekend in limited release in ten cities.  (For listings, click here.)  Infused throughout with an Iraqi hip-hop soundtrack, the briskly edited film is hands-off in letting ordinary Iraqis drive the storyline.

Groundbreaking and instantly compelling, VOI is sort of the anti-Michael Moore film.  There?s no narration, no heavy-handed editing.  And whereas the man from Flint started with his premise and assembled his film to support it, the only goal when making VOI was to emulate the producers? trailblazing MTV show Fear, which gave cameras to everyday youths who filmed themselves at supposedly haunted locations.  Defying expectations, the show was a hit.

Not knowing what to expect, the producers partnered with actor and Gulf War veteran Archie Drury, who personally distributed cameras in Iraq this April.  When they started getting back initial footage not long after, the situation was less than ideal, yet nowhere near as bleak as the media portrayed.

Life in Iraq is normal.  Maybe not normal by American or European standards, but certainly for a country barely out from under the thumb of a bloodthirsty tyrant. 

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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