This is a little documentary worth seeking out. I caught it this week on the fantastic PBS series Independent Lens and remember hearing about it somewhere (maybe NPR’s This American Life?) several months ago. The story follows aspiring Iraqi filmmaker Muthana Mohmed as he is plucked from his country during the first year or so of the current Iraq war after being spotted by filmmaker Liev Schreiber on an MTV human interest piece about young Iraqi’s living through the war. Schreiber decides that he will fly Muthana to Prague to give him the chance to work on his film Everything Is Illuminated. Illuminated producer Peter Saraf and Schreiber have hired two documentary filmmakers to chronicle Muthana’s time on the set, but don’t seem to have thought the decision through beyond the potential self-congratulatory public relations story and potential DVD special feature aspects of bringing Muthana along. Muthana quickly finds himself dissatisfied with the tasks he is asked to do and expresses fear of returning to Iraq and being singled out for assassination after working with the American Jews on a film about the German holocaust. Suddenly Muthana is a problem that no one wants to deal with. Only documentarian Nina Davenport sticks around to follow Muthanas story as Illuminated completes filming and the crew leave.
The film chronicles Muthana’s sometimes duplicitous nature and the ups and downs of his hustling to pursue his dream as well as the personal ups and downs of his working relationship and friendship with Davenport herself.