Part One follows Mohammed Haithem, an 11-year-old auto mechanic in the mixed Sheik Omar neighborhood in the heart of old Baghdad. With his father missing, Mohammed idolizes his domineering boss, working feverishly for approval and affection. Several years behind in school and waylaid by war’s intervention, he’s torn between education and apprenticeship. Through Mohammed’s eyes we see a growing disenchantment with the U.S.-led occupation, as well as tensions between Shia and Sunni Iraqis. Shown in extreme close-up, Mohammed’s Bagdhad is a city caught between an idealized past, a dangerous present, and an uncertain future.
Part Two is filmed inside the Shiite political/religious movement of Moqtada Sadr, traveling between Naseriyah and the holy city of Najaf. As tensions mount inside the country, we see the inner workings of Iraqi local politics as the Sadr movement pushes for regional elections and enforces their interpretation of Islamic law. Assuming control over the region, Mehdi Army militia overtake open markets and imprison suspected merchants of alcohol. Detainees and their impoverished families plea for mercy from this new authority. As the United States provokes an armed uprising among Sadr’s followers, moderate views are swept aside.
Part Three follows Iraqi Kurds as they assert their bid for independence, rebelling against the past atrocities of Baghdad rule. We follow these developments through the eyes of brick makers and childhood friends on a farm south of Arbil. An elderly farmer ruminates on his family, his people, and God, mindful of the legacy they all share, while his teenaged son tends sheep and dreams of medical school despite his father’s desire that he serve God. We hear voices of both independence and nationalism, sentiments secular and religious, revealing a community where politics and faith are personal, public, and forever closely intertwined.