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Witness
Fighter in Adhamiya
A film about a boxing academy and life in Baghdad's most dangerous district.
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2009 14:19 GMT

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Filmmaker: Rashed Radwan

Iraqi boxer Farouk Chanchoun Jawad was three times Champion of Asia and finished joint-fifth in the Men's Light-Welterweight division at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Farouk lives in Baghdad's notorious Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiya, with his memories, medals, and his biggest fan – his mum.

"When we started filming, this was the story of a man that had become depressed after his golden years as a boxing champion, but at the end, it became a story of a neighborhood that is trying to deal with the present and the remembrances of its golden past." Carmen Marques, the producer of Fighter in Adhamiya said.

Today Farouk still has one foot in the ring. He now trains youngsters in Adhamiya, which in recent years has been a battleground between US soldiers and Iraqi insurgents, as well as Sunni and Shiite.

"With the war in Iraq, personal stories and tragedies lost their importance and the heroes of the past, like Farouk, are seen like traitors because they are always linked to the former regime." Carmen said.

Some residents fear that a new security wall has turned Adhamiya into a prison. Everyday Farouk has to cross two American checkpoints just to reach his boxing academy.

"Adhamiya was the neighborhood where Baghdad's families spent their weekends. Its restaurants and Cafes were known all over Iraq. Now the neighborhood is known for its insecurity and violence and its glorious past is nothing more than distant memories."

Filmmaker Rashed Radwan brings us a film about getting young men to box instead of fight, but it is also a compelling account of life in Baghdad's most dangerous district, seen through the eyes of its residents, many of them supporters of the armed groups fighting both the Shiite and the Americans.

Filming in an area that was considered the most dangerous in Iraq not only for the westerners, but even for the locals was not an easy task.

"Our security staff had to be with us even before we entered Iraq. Advised by our local security team we decided that from Damascus we will travel by road to Baghdad as flying was more dangerous. Mainly because there are several cases of passenger lists having been sold to groups of kidnappers that wait their victims in the road that links the airport with the city center of Baghdad.

We decided not to stay in a Hotel because there were many stories about Hotel employees "selling" the customers to armed groups linked to kidnappings. We decided to stay in a private house with a family that we've known for years now. Everything had to be done with great care.

Even so our main security rule was, stay away from American convoys. In Iraq, no one wants to drive near the Americans. They can get nervous and shoot. Never stop near the convoy because they will get suspicious and can shoot at you. On the other hand, they are always a likely target."

Source:
Al Jazeera
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