Bridges is a two-part series that places students from New York and Baghdad in conversation via live satellite feed in order to foster dialogue between youth in the two countries. The first part was filmed in March 2003, just days before the invasion. The second part, which I haven’t had an opportunity to watch yet, was filmed after the invasion began. This entry will consist primarily of unorganized notes on what I’ve seen so far. It’s worth noting that the first episode places emphasis on the technologies and labor required to produce the event. In addition, the show’s producers are shown talking to various Iraqi ministers, specifically arranging for permission to produce the show (notably, the ministers offer little resistance).
I’ve been watching the first episode off-and-on as I write this entry (available on streaming video from the website), and it’s intriguing to watch both the connections and the limits of conversation. At one point, one of the Iraqi women interrupts a conversation on whether dissent is permitted in Iraq, asking to change the subject to something safe, such as sports or music. The conversation is punctuated by videos made by both the Iraqi and American students portraying some aspect of their daily lives, with one Iraqi teenager showing his heavy metal band while an Iraqi woman takes us on a tour of her family’s bomb shelter. Part of what is compelling about this material, of course, is how their relationships are mediated by popular culture. Iraqi students describe their enthusiasm for Eminem or the Backstreet Boys and mention that their understanding of American culture derives primarily from the films they consume (one of the American students quickly describes these films as unrealistic, romanticized portrayals).
I think this material has been available for some time, but I just happened to come across it by accident while doing some digging for documentary materials on the war for a paper I’m writing.