Just after the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war, Stephan goes to Baghdad to meet and interview young women and men at the frontlines of peace and change, using their voices to unite their country in the face of growing division. Sectarianism is at a fever pitch in the build up just before ISIS invades.
Stephan finds a generation working for change that is waiting to be heard, if only the world and media would listen. He works with Sunni, Shia, and Christian youth, Baghdadi’s, Muslawi’s, and Kurds, all hoping to heal their country.
He meets Sajjad Abbas, an artist, whose instantly recognizable graffiti can be seen across the city, crying out for peace. He talks with Ali Al Makhzomy and Ali Amer Taha, who founded Iraqi Culture Day to celebrate an inclusive Iraqi history that unites the country.
Along the way, he is introduced to doctors, professors, and electrical engineers working at the country’s major hospitals, universities and power plants, many of them working overtime 7 days a week trying to meet needs that are far beyond capacity amidst so much carnage.
He talks with Mohammed Al Daradji, an Oscar nominated film-maker, who founded the Iraqi Independent Film Center, with award-winning cinematographer Duraid Munajim, where they teach film making to urban youth. Here he meets Ayman Al Amiri, a brilliant young photographer who documents Stephan’s journey. Stephan meets Layla al Shaikley, Ali Ihsan and others who co-founded TEDx Baghdad, and jams with young musicians in the band Quartet n Jazz, who are as passionate about change.
On a hot day in which bombings closed numerous checkpoints, Stephan attends a youth orchestra’s rehearsal in Mansour. Cellist and conductor Karim Wasfi, known to some as the “Maestro of Baghdad,” speaks with Stephan about their mutual dreams to use music as an instrument of peace, and then play music together – Karim on cello, Stephan on violin, for the young orchestra.
Hoping to preempt the escalating violence before it reached today’s proportions, these youth and hundreds of other Iraqi’s join Stephan to make a music video, “Love, Make The World Go Round,” in the streets of Baghdad calling on the world to unite, to lift a vision of a better world for which we all can stand together louder than the bombs of inequality, for more equitable society in which sustainable peace is possible.
Stephan leaves Iraq changed – the young visionaries who have grown up at the epicenter of our generation’s most destructive conflict, possess an optimism and hope that is fearless and unstoppable. As we teeter at the edge of catastrophe, we must choose whether we listen to those who continue to divide us, or youth like these who can bring us together.