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‘From Baghdad to The Bay’ Follows an Iraqi Translator’s Journey as a Gay Man in America

'From Baghdad to The Bay' Follows an Iraqi Translator's Journey as a Gay Man in America

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From Baghdad to the Bay

Logline: An Iraqi refugee and former translator for the U.S. military wrongfully accused of espionage, tortured by the U.S., and ostracized from his family and country must rebuild his life in the United States while coming out as an openly gay man.

Elevator Pitch: 
From Baghdad to The Bay sheds light on the invisible LGBT communities in the Middle East whose lives are under constant threat and combats the xenophobia that has taken hold of the U.S. political dialogue today.

By following eight tumultuous years in Ghazwan Alsharif’s journey as a refugee in the U.S., the film explores the pervasive aftermath of war alongside the universal, and often painful, struggles of immigrants and refugees all over the world.

It is a liberating story of perseverance amidst extreme adversity and a raw personal look at one man’s harrowing journey to be true to himself. 

Production Team:
Director Erin Palmquist is an independent filmmaker in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has worked for such companies as Lucasfilm, National Geographic Explorer, and PBS. This is her first feature length film.

Editor Eli Olson is an Emmy Award winning film editor with a unique storytelling ability. Her extensive experience reaches into the feature film, documentary, non-fiction broadcast, and commercial realms. Eli won an Emmy for her work on “My Flesh and Blood” for HBO Films, which also won an Emmy for Best Documentary, and the Audience Award and Best Director Prizes at Sundance Film Festival. And there is so much more!

Advisor Frances Reid has been producing, directing, and shooting documentary films for over 30 years. She is the co-founder and executive director of Iris Films, which was founded in 1975. She was the cinematographer for “Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter” and the Oscar award nominated documentary “The Times of Harvey Milk.” She was nominated for an Academy Award for her short documentary “Straight from the Heart.” Her other films include “Skin Deep” and “Long Night’s Journey into Day” about South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which won the Grand Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

Advisor and Writer Erica Marcus has been working on documentary and narrative films for more than twenty years. She began her film career working in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, she assisted the Cannes award winning filmmaker Hu Jin Quan (胡金铨 or King Hu). In the mid-nineties, Erica was based in China where she produced and directed “Behind the Scenes (电影与电影人),” a popular weekly prime time program on international film and film festivals. Her documentary films include “My Home, My Prison,” which premiered at Sundance in the Documentary Competition and the ITVS funded film, “Alive in Limbo” about Palestinian refugee youth in Lebanon. Erica is currently co-directing with Christiane Badgley, the NEH Bridging Cultures funded documentary “Guangzhou Dream Factory” about the African community in Guangzhou, China.

About the Film:
When I met Ghazwan in 2008, I became curious about the growing Iraqi refugee community in the Bay Area and what it would it be like to rebuild your life in the country that, in large part, was responsible for your displacement. Seven years after 9/11, the nation was still rife with anti-Arab sentiments and the recession was nearing its lowest ebb. Ghazwan’s story addresses issues of belonging, acculturation, and homophobia. I am making this documentary because I believe in supporting people, like Ghazwan, who are willing to risk everything in hopes of a better world for generations to come.

Current Status: We have completed production and are now fundraising for post production.

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Erin is a very passionate filmmaker. I am excited to see the final version of this documentary.


Erin a a very passionate filmmaker. I am excited to see the final version of this documentary.


Erin a a very passionate filmmaker. I excited to see the final version of this documentary.

Barbara Peters

Good luck on your project, Erin. I am looking forward to the final product. The story needs to be told!

David O'Connor

How ironic that this,story will come out while trump and co deamonize immigrants Muslims and gays. This is so incredibly important and the timing is perfect. I hope it is finished and released soon.

Noelle Linzy

Can’t wait to see this project completed. Thanks to Erin Palmquist, the film maker, for her resilience and devotion to this project.

Ryan Lynch

Very excited to see this important film!

Heather F

I can’t wait to see it. No one can tell quite the same story.

Ariel S.

Erin is a talented & passionate cinematographer/director. It’s a pleasure getting to know her and see this documentary make it out into the world. It’s an important story that is so incredible with the fact that it is true!

Charlotte August

I hope that Indiewire will choose to feature a full length story on this project. The film is an important, in depth story about current social justice issues that are critical to out times. The filmmaker is a dedicated, rare talent whose work is compelling. She has put together a skillful team to get this project completed. Please support this very worthy project.

Rebecca Robb Benne

Ghazwan’s story is one of extraordinary pain and courage, backed by a director and team of extraordinary passion and dedication. It’s important that this film reaches a wide audience, not just in the US but around the world.

Ravi Sheth

This is an important story worth telling.

Jenna Anderson

After spending eight long years on this project, the atmosphere of homophobia and anti refugee sentiment has grown to a fever pitch in this country, making Erin’s work more timely and more important than it even was at the outset. I can’t think of a more worthy use of one’s resources than enabling this film to come to fruition, and I would strongly encourage those of you who can afford to contribute to this film’s completion to please donate as generously as you can. I look forward to seeing you in line at the ticket booth when this film comes to town. My hope is that it reaches the minds and hearts of those Americans who are currently so misguided about their attitudes regarding the issues this film addresses.


We need to see this story!!

Rita Carole

This film deals with many layers and levels of injustice, discrimination and struggle, personal as well as societal. Many different people will relate to it in many different ways – I look forward to the finished product!

Judith D.

This film invites us to move beyond our differences and find connection through the journey of one man, Ghazwan Alsharif. It is a film for our times. I look forward to its completion.

Beth Lanzi

Hard to believe this project has been in development for eight years-it’s so relevant in today’s world political climate.

Nobu Ito

Erin is an incredible filmmaker and I wouldn’t select anyone else to shed light on this topic and this man’s life. I can’t wait for the finished product and to see it on the big screen.

Ruth Blyther

This is a story that must be told!

Ayman A

I’m so excited for this story to come out, it means a lot to the Arabic LGBT community.


This story draws you right in! We are reminded to ponder the worth and talents of persons seeking new lives in this country. America needs them.


Would love to see this project get finished!

Jessica Jones

This story addresses a complexity in a character that we do not see on the news enough. Very much looking forward to seeing this film.

Pam Mendelsohn

This film deserves as wide an audience — and as diverse — as possible. It is the story of survival, hope, and the ravages war can and did create. Erin is the person who can show us this amazing story.


Very important film. Looking forward to seeing it

Kate K.

An incredibly powerful story supported by outstanding cinematography; it is a vital piece of art and culture that deserves to be shared!


Looking forward to this one!

Leah Vass

This is a story that deserves to be told…especially by a filmmaker as talented and committed as Erin!

Johanna S

Baghdad to the Bay opens up so many important topics, any one of which would make for a great film. Taken together, the story is transcendent.

Jim McSilver

I’m drawn to this documentary because it tells an intimate, personal story of one man’s dramatic journey which magnifies and illuminates so many larger, important social and political issues here in the U.S. and around the world.

Jenny Slattery

Erin is telling a pressing story with a truly compelling subject at its center. She is also striking an impressive balance between the darkness of the subject matter and the light and joy Ghazwan often brings to his surroundings. I’m so excited to watch this film go out into the world!

Anna Whitcher

I’ve worked on another film project with Erin and have always been so impressed by her commitment to her craft and her dedication to greater causes beyond herself. She has helped to create a platform for voices that should be heard, and this film is a perfect example of that. It’s been a great privilege to be a part of her process, however small, as she launches into this next exciting stage of this compelling film.

John F Palmquist

This is a story of multiple parts that will impact many different audiences in very emotional and humans ways. Now is the time for it to be shared.

Cheryl johnson

I have seen Erin’s earlier work so I know about her artistry

and integrity. She never gets in the way of the subject. This trailer has the full intensity and power necessary to be an important part of American events.


I am so impressed. Cannot wait to see the finished product and for it to be shared by all.

John Weitzel

Remembering back to a day in 2009 when Erin was visiting NYC and we discussed the beginnings of this doc and its subject. I am so pleased that the time has come for this important film to be shown. Jeff and I are supporting this vision with all who have played a role in its creation.

Michael Ryan

This is a quintessential ‘American’ story. Yet, it has a profound resonance with so many aspects of America today, the war and rebuilding of Iraq, which is still haunting foreign policy today, and the fight for LGBT rights and recognition.

Anya Black

This is a story everyone needs to hear. Erin is an amazing film maker and I’m proud that she is helping bring the journeys so many must endure as immigrants to light. Please support her in doing so.

Erica Milsom

I’m really excited to see what the talented Erin Palmquist does with this story. It’s an important one!

Wade Keye

I’ve worked with Erin and know her skill, artistry, and drive firsthand. I’ve been excited for this project since I first heard of it, and I’m ecstatic it’s so close to fruition. This is a story that’s curiously untold in our mass media, but one that is pertinent to the lives of so many.

Phillip Matarrese

Such a great project. This is a story that MUST be told!

Jennifer Huang

In spite of our years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans still have very little understanding of Arab culture and experience. With the Syrian refugee situation raising xenophobia around the world, this film is an important insight into the humanity behind the statistics.

Kristine Stolakis

This speaks to the complexity that is the American experience – a refreshing change of pace from current political discourse! So glad to see this project exists.

Stuart Liroff

I’ve been following Erin for about 3-years. I know this film is earth shaking and needs to be produced. I support Erin and her film.

Tim Monroe

This is a very important story that needs to be told now more than ever.

Jacqwi Campbell

This is a story that needs to be told, especially now. I support and would love to see the full story as a film.

Stefanie F.

This film discusses incredibly important issues that couldn’t be more timely. America needs this story needs to be told.

Dan Goldes

I’ve been following this film’s progress for a few years. It’s especially important now, with the demagoguery we’re hearing in the current U.S. presidential campaign, the world’s focus on immigration, and the abuse LGBT people face in some parts of the world. I’m looking forward to seeing this project come to fruition.

janina shayne

Beautifully and sensitively filmed, this invites you to think of the refugee situation, the pains of war, one man’s struggle to be his true self. Erin’s special talent is interviewing and editing so that the subject GETS YOU and creates an indelible place in your heart and mind. This is more than LGBT issues, or war issues or immigrant issues. It is all of these and more. Watch the trailer and become a part of the team. Please!

Dick Jordan

I met Erin about a year ago and saw clips from the project at that time. I’ve put my money where my mouth is to help fund completion of what I think could be an Academy Award nominated film.

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