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Cultures collide, egos clash and dreams come true when students unite at an arts program in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

director's statement

Cultural exchange between America and Iraq is a tricky issue to tackle for one's first feature length documentary. After spending 9 weeks in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, shooting over 100 hours of footage, and dedicating countless hours to review and editing, I’ll admit that I still find the subject daunting. 

I was not always presented with an easy, feel good scenario when I shot CAMP UNITY, nor was I traipsing through the bloody desert battlefields of Iraq that are so familiar from international news reports. Instead, I was on rather neutral ground with a number of likable and flawed characters, who came together to teach and learn in an unlikely corner of the globe.

While CAMP UNITY certainly examines the overarching concept of distinct cultures coming together, it was the commonality of individual exchanges that truly blew me away while working on this project. 

Focusing purely on conflicts and cultural differences can fuel xenophobic fears of the Middle East, its peoples and the Islamic faith. Thus, it was absolutely wonderful to discover the normality of everyday life in the Kurdistan Region. It's true that this area of Iraq has been protected from the more recent conflicts in the country, but I firmly believe that the students and families I had the privilege to work with are representative of millions of other Muslim peoples throughout the world. 

When I showed footage to friends and family after my first journey to Iraq, everyone was shocked to see the Arab and Kurdish students. They said: “Is that really Iraq?” 

I realized that my own surprise at the familiarity of day to day life in the Middle East had worn off after nearly 5 weeks in the field. But here was my mother, realizing that this “scary” place I had been to was filled with regular people who struggle, worry, succeed, goof off, rebel, have family dinners, ignore their parents, make mistakes, have faith, follow their dreams, let their hair down and wear t-shirts. She seemed relieved, not just to know that I had been safe, but relieved because these universal images slightly mended her perception of the conflicted, modern world.

At times the road was bumpy, but everyone involved in the Unity Academy 2008 walked away a changed person. I’d like viewers of CAMP UNITY to leave the cinema empowered with the age-old knowledge that reaching an understanding begins with a conversation, a handshake, a smile, or maybe even a hip hop song. 

-Ryan White 

production stills

  • Director Ryan White
    Director Ryan White




Camp Unity




USA • Iraq


Thursday April 26 
8:00pm - BLOCK G - Upcountry History Museum

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Ryan White


Nothin' Films