CAMP UNITY was constructed from over 100 hours of footage shot during the Summer and Fall of 2008, when filmmaker Ryan White spent a total of 9 weeks filming in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Primary locations were Sulaimaniyah and Erbil, as well as Kirkuk, Halabja, Ranya, and the mountainous region of Hawraman near the Iranian border.
The initial shoot took place in July and August, the hottest months of the year in Iraq. As the summer temperatures soared and dust storms filled the desert air,
eight American teachers conducted two 10-day programs instructing classes in classical and jazz music, orchestra, ballet, hip hop dance, Broadway and theater to over 600 Iraqi students.
It was critical to cover as much of the event as possible, and Ryan and his bare-bones crew certainly had their work set out for themselves! Day after day, the documentary team ran after students and teachers, following them through rehearsals and family dinners, late night breakdancing practices and life in the dormitories, and finally to the big show and beyond.
caroleCAMP UNITY takes place within the Unity Academy classrooms, students' homes, dormitories, teachers' hotels, and ancient cities and arid landscape of the Kurdistan Region. It didn’t take long for the students and teachers to become accustomed to the constant presence of the documentary crew, and feelings of self-conciousness were quickly set aside. Soon the film team was being invited to family homes for home-cooked meals and into the student dorms to hang out after hours with the scholarship students. The resulting documentary gives the viewer a surprisingly intimate look at the Unity Academy 2008.
As the summertime shoot wore on, strenuous 16 hour days combined with 50? (122?) heat wreaked havoc on the video and sound equipment. Even when working inside, the cameras and microphones accumulated massive amounts of desert dust from the constant dust-storms - leading to frequent technical issues and subsequent repairs. A multitude of daily power outages was the norm, making lighting, re-charging of camera batteries, and footage transfers logistical nightmares. By the final show, the wear and tear of shooting in Iraq had rendered one of the on-camera sound riggings completely useless and the other was functioning thanks only to a few pieces of electrical tape!
CAMP UNITY takes the viewer on an entertaining journey through a unique landscape of cross-cultural experiences, where cultures, egos, and dreams collide in the process of reaching a mutual understanding between Americans and Iraqis.
You can find the trailer in HD on Youtube.