BBC Promotes Darkly-Comedic, 'Poignant' Short Story about Baghdad Cameraman Who Videos Beheadings


The BBC wouldn’t run a dramatic TV movie about an Iraq war hero and also banned all message board entries linking to controversial anti-terror blog Little Green Footballs, but April 17, the network tops itself. The London Times reports that the Beeb will feature “Weddings and Beheadings,” a short story by an acclaimed Pakistani-British author, which is about an Iraqi camera man who “takes a blackly comic approach to the execution of hostages in Iraq” (emphasis mine throughout):

  Weddings and Beheadings by Hanif Kureishi — writer of My Beautiful Laundrette and The Buddha of Suburbia — tells the story of a jobbing cameraman in Baghdad who films executions to earn a living and jokes about it as a way to cope.

To explain what led him to turn beheadings into black comedy, Kureishi stated that after watching some of the footage leading up to the decapitations, he began “imagining the life of the man behind the camera,” who he sees as an “innocent” “roped in” for his skills not as a terrorist. The story includes witty little gems like these parting lines between two of these beheading videographers, “Don’t bury your head in the sand, my friend. Don’t go losing your head now, chin up”.

 Kureishi gave more background about why he wrote the story and describes the “hilarious” joke that started it all:

“The idea started with a joke,” said Kureishi, 52. “I thought, what if you were a cameraman, having to do these kind of jobs and you had a business card that said ‘Weddings and Beheadings’? I thought it was hilarious and told my children about it, but they just stared at me blankly.”

He added: “Seeing the footage, I started to think what about that wobbly camera — what is the story of that bloke trembling behind the camera? You’re only going to get one take, you know, would be the line.”

Kureishi said he saw the person doing the filming not as a terrorist but as an innocent roped in for his ability to use a video camera, “like any young guy, living in Camden wanting to make movies, except that he happens to be in Baghdad”.

Kureishi denied his story was disrespectful to victims and their families. “Very black comedy can be a way to look at these things,” he said. “We have to have some way of looking at awful things in the world.”

I’m certainly not advocating censoring literature or burning books, but a little balance would be nice. For a network that pulled a “too positive” movie about an amazing Iraq war hero because it might “alienate” those against the war, the BBC isn’t very worried about alienating those who don’t find the trivialization of beheadings amusing.

The BBC describes the story online:

Oaissa offers candid thoughts on life, death and art from his basement bedroom as he waits for his next shoot. His predicament serves as a poignant metaphor for anyone caught in a battle between their inner desires and the demands of the outside world, and echoes the disastrous consequences of the invasion of Iraq.

There might be a kink in the BBC’s plan to showcase a story that it probably thought was edgy or progressive. An Islamic group claims they beheaded the BBC’s Gaza correspondent.

Iraq War on Terrorism UK Journalistic Issues