Trish Dalton
Films

About the Film

Lorna Tychostup

In February 2003, Lorna Tychostup, a single mother and News & Politics Editor for a local arts magazine in New Paltz, N.Y., knowingly risks her life, imprisonment, and a million dollar fine by traveling to Iraq under the threat of war.

On a mission to “bring back the face of the Iraqi people” to the American public, Lorna returns with images of ordinary Iraqis she hopes will sway people against the invasion. Her controversial journey is challenged in a live television broadcast as FOX News lambastes her efforts as “villainous and bordering on treason” and accuses her of “aiding and abetting the enemy… on the brink of war.”

Deeply affected by her time spent with Iraqis, Lorna returns to an occupied Iraq intent on uncovering the untold stories. Traveling without security in local taxis, she stays in small unprotected hotels outside the safety zones where mainstream journalists are lodged. Embedding with soldiers and visiting with Iraqis in regions in and around Baghdad, including bombed-out government properties inhabited with thousands of squatters, insurgent villages, and the Shia stronghold of Sadr City, Tychostup seeks the other truths of how the war has changed Iraq. Her peers are brazen twenty- and thirty-something year-old budding male journalists – some on spring break adventures, others intent on getting the “story” and one who gets kidnapped.

Returning to the US after each trip with stories she believes are not reaching American TV sets, Lorna travels around the country giving lectures, presenting her slide show and appearing on innumerable media outlets. The more she uncovers and reveals the realities of Iraqis and American soldiers, the more she is forced to question her original agenda and what she begins to see as her own naive idealism. Challenging both the left and right’s stark, narrowly-constructed political viewpoints on the war, as she speaks the “other truths” revealed by her first hand experiences, she finds herself attacked not only by some former supporters of her work, but by fringe segments of both the left and right. In one instance, invited to appear live on BAI radio, as she reports that some Iraqis have told her they like Bush and welcome the soldiers’ presence, the supposedly “progressive“ radio station shuts her down.

Despite her mixed feelings, Lorna attempts to come to terms with the complexities and maintains a bull-headed determination to share the stories and images she’s captured on her continued visits to Iraq. By relaying her experiences, she works to connect Americans and everyday Iraqis. Along the way she meets a range of Americans: students, soldiers, soldier’s families, and Iraqi-Americans – all of who want to understand what’s really happening beyond the national media’s coverage of the war.

During this time Lorna goes from a 40-something year old to a 50-something year-old, transforming along the way from a small town mother sending her children off to college into a seasoned war journalist. Realizing she has more questions than answers about how the international community operates, she goes back to school and earns a Master’s from NYU’s Center for Global Affairs. By 2010 she finds her way back to Iraq working as a Communications and Outreach Specialist for a USAID-funded project focused on strengthening the Iraqi government’s ability to provide basic services to its people. Driving in highly-visible, heavily-guarded armored multi-vehicle convoys and living in a securitized compound in Baghdad just blocks from the site of the infamous Blackwater incident that claimed the lives of 14 Iraqi civilians, Lorna gains yet another revealing and sometimes shocking insider view of the development community. More at risk due to the high profile nature of her work, Lorna remains passionate about telling the stories of the Iraqi people as her focus expands to include a strong desire to help build their capacity to reconstruct their country.

Lorna’s story, and those she crafts about the issues and people most directly affected by the war in and occupation of Iraq, raise larger questions about good and bad, left and right, Republican and Democrat – and where America and Iraq connect at this juncture in history.