Skip to content

Operation Filmmaker (Nina Davenport)

Operation Filmmaker (Nina Davenport)

Who knew that this story of Muthana Mohmed as featured in “Operation Filmmaker” would start with MTV, since most of its audience mostly consists of 13-year old Fall Out Boy or Timberlake fans. But this is when Mohmed’s life would change, and so would that of director Nina Davenport, who would end up spending the next year and a half of her life following this Iraq film student around with camera in tow.


It was Liev Schrieber who happen to catch a piece on Mohmed as he walked around his city of Baghdad, showing the place were his film school once stood. Now, there was only rubble, compliments of the American’s war on Iraq. Something clicked inside of Schrieber, and brought Mohmed to Prague to be an intern for the film, “Everything Is Illuminated” (which was released in 2005, starring Elijah Wood).

Mohmed went from being the center of attention, a bit of a celebrity figure when he first came on the scene, to playing the role of intern, which is quite another position. This is his opportunity to be around filmmaking, but in his frustration, he feels he’s not really learning through hands-on training. He’s mixing nuts for the director and producer, and missing one of the best shots in the world. While he’s grateful for being there, he misses his people, his mother who always catered to his every need, and now he is expected to take care of everyone else.

While walking through the tall and beautiful sunflower fields, he states that he’s been through worse times, but at least they were more interesting. But when given a chance to create the gag reel for the film’s wrap party, he drops the ball and his reputation begins to slide downward.

He also realized that this project that he’s involved in, which includes working with Americans on a film about a young Jewish American, puts him in danger. He would be thought of as a traitor, one who betrayed his country, which would have consequences if he were to return home.

What Mohmed doesn’t seem to understand is what it takes to make progress in one’s career, for the need to pay your dues and work your way up the chain. He doesn’t know how to be proactive and make connections so he can continue his work outside of his country. Instead, he waits for people to take care of him, like his mom did back home, waiting until he has just a week left in his visa to see where else he could go. He decides to go back home and try to film there, but quickly changes his story when he gets an extension on visa in the Czech Republic. At this point, the people he’s working for begin to accuse him of being more of an actor than a filmmaker, because of the façade that he presents and the chameleon stories that he uses at a whim.

Back in Baghdad, his friends and fellow film students continue to use the cameras that Davenport had sent them to use, so they are able to send back their footage of what is taking place there. As Mohmed waits for his potential asylum in Prague, he reads about more deaths in his country and begins to shift his opinion from pro to con regarding the U.S.’ Iraq invasion. The original enthusiasm he had for Bush, which took many of the filmmakers by surprise, shows signs of wear.

Mohmed makes his way to another intern position on “Doom,” and the editing Davenport performed to transition from the scene of a real bombing in Iraq with numerous casualties, to the “Doom” scene, where fake dead bodies are strewn on the floor, is a fantastic “life imitating art” moment.

The film succeeded in not only capturing the side of Iraqi life that we don’t get to see, the life that is very similar in the way of family and friends, even the pursuit of what and who you want to be, but so, so very different from ours in ways we as Americans take for granted.

“Operation Filmmaker” also presents how a person can transition from being humble and grateful, and if given enough rope, can also take on a level of arrogance and entitlement, which after this realization, can potentially bring one back to a higher sense of self…or not.


Sign up to our newsletter and get updates to your mailbox