Dancing in the Danger Zone

Channel 4: Unreported World

Reporter Evan Williams and Director Marcel Mettelsiefen meet two extraordinary young people who are defying Baghdad's constant violence and religious hatred to pursue their dreams at Iraq's only music and ballet school.  


It’s the run up to the elections at the end of April and up to 300 people are being killed in Baghdad every week by car bombs and assassinations.


But, hidden away from the violence, the school is a refuge of culture and artistic expression. 162 students from across the city attend and ranging from six to 17 years old, they are chosen for their artistic ability for music and dance. The school’s star student is 17-year-old Leezan Salam, who has studied there for ten years and is just two months from graduation. “When you enter the school you enter a place of hope and peace. Outside you hear the sounds of car bombs and gunfire. Inside the school, everything is beautiful,” she tells Williams.


Pianist Mohammed Ramsey is one of Leezan’s best friends and they are both on the brink of the biggest decision of their lives: what to do when they leave the school. Leezan will have to leave Iraq if she wants to continue her ballet. Mohammed’s future as a piano player is uncertain.


Every day they, like the rest of the pupils, risk their lives by crossing Baghdad to reach the school. Just six weeks ago Leezan and Mohammed’s best friend – musician Ali Nouri - was killed by a bomb as he went home from school. He used to take Leezan home every day until one day she heard a bomb had gone off. “I called Ali’s phone and a stranger picked it up,” she tells Williams.”I said “Who is this?” The guy said “if you know this person call his family. Please. Call the family and tell them he’s dead’... 

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Dancing in the Danger Zone, Channel 4: Unreported World | Quicksilver Media