Entertainment » Movies

From Baghdad To The Bay

by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Apr 26, 2018
'From Baghdad To The Bay'
'From Baghdad To The Bay'  

Ten years in the making, Erin Palmquist's excellent documentary "From Baghdad To The Bay" is the engaging story of Ghazwan Alsharif, an Iraqi refugee and former translator for the U.S. military.  After years of service helping the American forces, he was wrongfully accused of espionage and tortured by the military police in Iraq for some 75 days before being rescued by a U.S. Colonel who he had served with, and who personally vouched for him.

When the Iraqi militia learned of his work with the U.S. forces they first threatened his family and then bombed his home. His parents - who, ironically, had been the ones who had initially encouraged him to help the Americans liberate the country - then ostracized him for refusing to give up his war work.

Despite the U.S. government's avowed aim to help re-settle Iraqis who had risked their lives working with the Armed Forces (in those days, anyway), the reality of actually being allowed to immigrate to safe haven in America involves a long and arduous procedure that does not guarantee success. Alsharif was one of the lucky ones who managed to be awarded a place in an International refugee scheme, which enabled him to get to San Francisco.

Over the years Palmquist and her crew regularly returned to visit Alsharif and see how he was managing to adjust to his new life. It would be wrong to underestimate both the upheaval and suffering of being forced to give up your home and culture in order to survive. He was not only ostracized by his entire family back in Iraq, but his divorced wife, now living in London, rarely allows him even phone contact with their son.

A major plus of his new life is that it is now safe for Alsharif to finally come out as a gay man. Still, when his photograph with other gay men appears on Facebook, his brothers call from Iraq to demand that the photo be taken down. In 2012, when he lends his support to the group campaigning to stop Iraqis being killed back home just for being gay, his family contact him again to tell him to desist. An American Arab explains that the family could be totally excluded from Iraq society if it were to become known they had a gay son. This may seem severe, but pales in comparison with the knowledge that this could easily cost Alsharif his very life.

He is by all counts a very affable man, with a passion for his work as a chef (he even got his five minutes of fame appearing on Food Network program). He has a new group of friends, American citizenship, and a gratitude for his freedom which almost makes up the loneliness he feels he can never escape. 

From Baghdad To The Bay

EAST COAST PREMIERE Ghazwan Alsharif had his dream job translating for the U.S. forces in Iraq. But his dream turned into a nightmare when accused of being a double agent. With his and his family’s life in jeopardy, Ghazwan fled Iraq and settled in San Francisco. Struggling and alone, Ghazwan reveals that he is gay. Facing these challenges, yet with a new sense of freedom, Ghazwan, with his effervescent personality, seeks to become a professional chef. Ghawan’s turbulent and ultimately joyous journey is nothing less than a testament to the human spirit. PRECEDED BY SHORT FILM: Empire on Main Street Directed By: Jessica Congdon 24 minutes, USA


Runtime :: 68 mins
Release Date :: Jan 01, 2018
Country :: USA


Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.

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