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In Country: A filmmaker's blog

Posted by Ty Burr  July 3, 2007 10:21 AM

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I've never met Bill Cody in person, but the filmmaker and I have been corresponding on and off for about two decades now, ever since I saw "Athens, GA: Inside/Out," the slaphappy 1987 documentary he produced about the music scene that gave us REM and The B-52s.

His most recent work is "Thank You For My Eyes," a documentary made with Simone Allmen about the Kurds of northern Iraq. I haven't seen the film yet; it didn't make it into Sundance, to Bill's frustration. Recently he headed back to Kurdistan (a real place, if not yet a genuine country) to teach a filmmaking workshop to young people there.

It's the MySpace blog he's keeping while in Iraq that I want to turn you onto, because it makes astonishing reading -- a testament to lives that go on and minds that keep growing even as disaster looms. The shadow of the war to the south is never not present, and yet the kids and grown-ups Bill meets constantly articulate their hopes, eager to express them in words or on film.

These are people and stories we don't get in the mainstream media, and the occasional political insights are similarly ground-level. (Love that July 2nd blog entry detailing drinks and a realpolitik conversation with two State Department wonks.)

Just a taste of what Cody is seeing and hearing:

"Yesterday a young filmmaker had to get up in the middle of our story conference to stand up. He apologized to us and then explained that he had to stand up sometimes because he has a bullet in his leg from when 'terrorists' attacked a film shoot he was on with an Arabic director from the Netherlands.

"After he got shot, the terrorists rounded up the crew and beat them for over an hour. Then they were lined up against a wall, the men aimed rifles at them and ordered them to turn around. The crew stood there scared out of their minds and waiting to die. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity they turned around and the men were gone. He said the director lied and said he was from Iraq otherwise they probably would have killed him.

"BUT he said he likes the bullet in his leg because it reminds him of his first job in 'cinema'. Only in Iraq."

Cody's blog is slowly getting around; Bob Saget recently emailed the filmmaker to tell him it reads like a combination of "Borat" and "Dr. Strangelove." I think it reads like nothing the movies have shown us. Yet. Again, here's the link to the "Thank You for My Eyes" blog, and the film's MySpace page.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

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