Al Samidoon roughly translates to ‘The Ones Left Standing.’ The refugees in Iraq, that I was privileged to interview, were literally the ones left standing. Their beloved friends, neighbors, and family members had either been killed by ISIS or joined them. This year, I had the opportunity of shooting a documentary in Iraqi Kurdistan highlighting the refugee situation. Currently, there are over 4 million refugees residing in Iraq. Many of them have been forced to leave their houses, cars, and jobs. ISIS families now occupy most of those homes, sleeping in their beds and using their belongings. I visited approximately ten refugee camps spanning 80 miles in northern Iraq interviewing refugees and capturing their stories of war, God, and the will to survive. The film provides an inside look not only into the ISIS situation or US involvement but the hearts and minds of the simple people of Iraq.
I decided to go to Iraq because I felt it was my duty to tell the stories of these nameless and faceless struggling people. After wrestling with whether I should go or not for weeks; despite all fears and imaginations, I realized it was an opportunity that I could not back down from. I realized that if I did not attempt this, then who would? I claim to care deeply for the refugees but how could I say that I care but chose to do nothing about it? From a cattle farm in Virginia, to Los Angeles, to Iraq has given me quite the trifecta of world views. Oddly enough, the simply farmers and shepherds of rural Kurdistan reminded me of the land I grew up on. I had a vision, a camera, and my Carhartt jacket. And even though the landscape was vaguely familiar, the trials and tribulations that I heard were a world away. One 15 year old boy told me, days after I had arrived, of when he had to leave his birthday cake on the table to escape an ISIS attack on his town. His mother didn’t even have a chance to cut it