Posted on Monday, August 3, 2015

“Three from Iraq” is not the kind of documentary that’s full of action sequences and a rocking soundtrack.

But then, it’s not supposed to be.

Instead, it’s a very informal on-the-couch interview with three Iraqi women, all former Blue Ridge Community College students, who talk about the lives they’re living now and the ones they left behind. The former takes place here in the United States. The latter is a retrospective on life in post-Saddam Iraq.

BRCC English professor Margaret Marangione says the documentary, which was made possible thanks to a grant from the VCCS Office of Professional Development, was a “marriage” of her research interests in Middle Eastern women and the power of narrative.

“BRCC has an incredibly diverse student body for a Shenandoah Valley college and I wanted to bridge the different student groups into finding a commonality of experience. “

First, Marangione had her students read I am Malala – the acclaimed autobiography of an Afghanistan woman who was shot in the head for refusing to be silent about her right to an education. The students were then asked to write an essay comparing their experiences with the girls in the video.

“In their writings, my students found commonalities of experience between themselves and these young girls.”

While the documentary itself is both revealing and at times, eye-opening, the process of putting it together was challenging. For instance, finding students who were willing to be filmed, Marangione says, proved to be a difficult undertaking.

“There were a lot of students who would not appear on film because of cultural or religious reasons.”

To overcome that obstacle, Marangione enlisted the help of former BRCC student Natasha D’Souza who not only identified three willing participants but agreed to host the documentary as well.

The video has a run time of just over 47 minutes. Marangione hopes it will serve to remind audiences in this country that the images of the Middle East shown by the media often come to us without context or cultural explanation.

“One of the goals for the video was a humanistic one in that we are all human beings and we have to make an attempt to understand before we judge.”'

Craig Butterworth

A native of Richmond, Craig Butterworth is an award-winning broadcast journalist and communications professional. He has worked as a spokesperson, staff writer and editor for a variety of non-profit and for-profit organizations throughout the Richmond area.

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