News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 26, 2009

Untold Stories: Film takes unique look ‘Inside Iraq’


At 7 p.m. Monday, St. Mary-of-the-Woods College will present “Inside Iraq: The Untold Stories,” which will include a film showing and discussion with the director of the film, Mike Shiley. The presentation, which will be in the Cecilian Auditorium of the SMWC Conservatory of Music building, is part of the College’s Four-Star series, and it is being co-sponsored by the SMWC Student Activities Committee. The presentation is free and open to the public.

The war in Iraq has been showcased as both an example of American decisiveness and the catastrophic result of failed leadership. But beyond the debate, what is the reality of life on the ground? In March 2003, Mike Shiley was doing what most ordinary Americans were doing — sitting on the sofa, watching the nightly news coverage of Gulf War II and wondering what was really going on in Iraq. Shiley, an avid world traveler, was personally driven to travel to Iraq and produce a documentary film about what was happening behind the scenes.

Although Shiley is not a journalist, he convinced local television affiliate KATU in Portland, Ore., to grant him permission to cover the Oregon National Guard in Iraq. Shiley still needed press credentials, so he went to his local Kinko’s print shop where he ingeniously made a homemade press pass. He then cashed in airline miles and with a single contact name written on a crumpled piece of paper, crossed into Iraq — setting off on a journey that would change his life forever.

Armed only with a camera and a local guide, Shiley traveled throughout the country of Iraq for two months, filming unique stories the national media ignores and showing the reality of life in Iraq beyond the media and military spin. He interviewed American and Iraqi soldiers, talked to local citizens, and put himself in situations of great personal risk. The footage from Shiley's excursions throughout the Sunni Triangle, the city of Baghdad, the northern Kurdish region and the Shiite-controlled south put into deep personal context the stories we hear about in the news.

But rather than trying to push a political point of view, Shiley let his camera roll, catching a multitude of real-life moments that tell it like it is. Guided by his own narration and interspersed with cuts to the studio interview, we are shown Iraq as we've never seen it before, getting a raw look at what it's like to be a soldier and a civilian in Iraq today.

“Inside Iraq: The Untold Stories” has screened at 15 film festivals and was awarded Best Documentary four times. There have also been more than 450 screenings on college campuses, it has been featured more than 300 times in newspapers and radio and ABC News has aired many of the stories included in the film.

Award-winning filmmaker, lecturer and journalist Mike Shiley has been to the most dangerous places in the world. He lived in and traveled through the Middle East, covered wars in Iraq and Kosovo, reported on the tsunami in SE Asia and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

An avid world adventure traveler, Shiley has visited 38 countries. He has trekked to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, completed a 3,000-mile solo bicycle trip from Canada to Mexico, climbed 14 mountains in the Pacific Northwest and is a ski instructor for the handicapped. An accomplished scuba diver and a certified Divemaster, he has guided more than 250 dives in the Red Sea in Egypt. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon.

Shiley has produced six feature length documentary films. His last two films have been official selections in more than 30 film festivals and have won Best Documentary awards five times. The Smithsonian Institution selected Shiley’s new film, Dark Water Rising, to be a part of its permanent collection on Hurricane Katrina. He has spoken and shown his films more than 400 times in 35 states and seven countries.

For more information about the film showing and discussion of “Inside Iraq: The Untold Stories,” or for details on upcoming events in the SMWC Four-Star Series, contact Jeff Malloy, director of campus life, at (812) 535-5219 or jmalloy@smwc.edu. Visit insideiraqthemovie.com for more details on “Inside Iraq: The Untold Stories” and to see the trailer.