Just a bit over 7 years have passed since we were in Baghdad to begin the recording of Gunner Palace. During that season, our child became 8 years old and passed to 3rd grade. At that moment, we thought war would end before Christmas arrived. During November 1st 2003, Gunners had their first casualty, Lieutenant Ben Colgan lost his life to an IED. By the time Christmas arrived, two more casualties had occurred. At some point, Saddam’s hideout was discovered; everyone thought war was coming to an end now, but they were all wrong.
The following spring came with rebellion and Lynndie England converted into a domestic name. The gunners had one more casualty at their doorstep. After a short period, their mission was prolonged and they were deployed to Najaf. They returned home on July 2004, but the war was far from finishing. During Thanksgiving, barricades were all over Falluja.
Two years of war had passed when the film Gunner Palace reached theatres during March 2005. When I traveled again to Baghdad during May of that same year to investigate, insecurity was at its brightest moment. In order to reach the center of Baghdad, I had to travel with a military squad seriously fortified. A few months later, refugees from Iraq started to cross the border amassed in millions, I was in Amman recording The Prisoner. In 2007 winter arrived, and with it came loads and loads of deaths because of the political war in Baghdad.
We chose to finish a project started back in 2003, which consisted of a close-up on a German businessman who brought bulletproof vehicles into Baghdad, where he would then sell them. The project was called Bulletproof Salesman. When we met him again during 2007, he had left Iraq seeing as it was too risky for a big part of his customers. Instead, he went to Afghanistan, where he seemed to make way more money. We then arrived in Kabul, and just 48 hours after, a police transport vehicle was blown by the Taliban. This attack caused the death of over 40 police officers. Seven days after, we arrived back in the US. It felt like another planet, in the US war was considered taboo; unfortunate events that occur to other countries. Many years ago, a young Gunner told us
“This might be a movie for you all, but this is our everyday life.”
War footage was restricted to only a few minutes every week.
In 2008, the war became 5 years old, despite only being supposed to endure 3 weeks. At this point, we started recording what later became the successor of How to Fold a Flag (2009) movie. Over a year passed, a new president came, we had traveled over 100,000 miles and the film was finally finished. However, there still was no sight of an end – we understood that regardless of the distance, war became a segment of our life. The following season, our daughter had become 14 years old, she was already in high-school. Her generation saw war as a persistent event, something without reason, history or any politics involved; for them, it was only a thing that Americans did.
Note: This film isn’t a documentation of war; instead, it’s a documentation of countries facing war.