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November 21, 2012

English Professor John Mulrooney is associate producer of The Peacemaker, a documentary about the life and work of famed peacemaker Padraig O'Malley. When filming brought the professor to Iraq this summer, veteran Jessica Melendy, '13, had the chance to jump on board as production assistant thanks to BSU.

During the six-day journey, professor and student joined the documentary's film crew down at the Forum for Cities in Transition, O’Malley’s peacemaking conference hosted by the Kirkuk Provincial Council. Ms. Melendy helped with various production tasks and conducted research on the forum’s delegates, who were primary interview subjects and hailed from conflicted cities, such as Kirkuk, Baghdad, Belfast, and Tripoli.

It was a revealing behind-the-scenes look at film production, said Ms. Melendy, an English and communication studies dual major whose trip was funded by BSU.

This was the student’s second time in the country. The first time, she was serving in the Iraq War.

“It’s so much different going back in civilian clothes,” said Ms. Melendy. “You’re not with a group of people blending in. You get to meet more people and experience more of the culture.”

As a civil engineer in the Air Force from 2001-2006, Ms. Melendy was stationed primarily in Balad, helping build temporary housing for Iraqi soldiers. The BSU trip, which involved visiting the University of Dohuk to meet with campus constituents, gave the vet a glimpse of the war from the other side, both the praises and criticisms.

“I talked with students, professors and others about the Iraq War,” she said. “They had really good insights. It helped me look at Iraq in a whole different context.”

The experience has given her valuable new material for her memoir, an honor’s thesis she is writing under the tutelage of Professor Mulrooney, which will include her experiences in Iraq, as soldier and civilian.

A highlight for Ms. Melendy was meeting the documentary’s subject, Padraig O’Malley, who strives for peace in the most conflicted parts of the world. “Seeing him was great,” she said. “I’m very proud to be part of the film, especially after seeing what his work is all about.”

Iraq was the last major shoot, but Ms. Melendy is signed on for the long run. She will help during post-production with transcriptions, archival research, and grant writing, among other tasks.

Professor Mulrooney said he was grateful to BSU for providing an internship opportunity. He said he would like to bring a study tour to Iraq sometime in the future. When asked if she would join, Ms. Melendy said, without hesitation, “I would love to go back.” (Rob Matheson, ’07, G ’12, University News)

John Mulrooney (center) and Jessica Melendy (right) with an administrator for the University of Dohuk