We conclude our extended series on representations of war in film with an examination of current U.S. involvement in Iraq. This program is primarily comprised of documentary films which are largely constructed of footage recorded by the subjects themselves. These portraits of daily life in Iraq add some dimension to the often problematic representation of the conflict currently offered by mass media outlets.
September 15 (Friday) 7 pm
September 19 (Tuesday) 9:15 pm
Directed by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross
UK 2005, 35mm, color, 95 min.
With Riz Ahmed Farhad Harun Waqar Siddiqui
English and Urdu with English subtitles
Three British Muslims, known as “the Tipton three” are arrested and held without charges for two years by the U.S. government at Guantanamo Bay. Although not a direct representation of the War in Iraq, the filmmakers' focus on questions of rendition and torture resonate with the larger themes of the war of terror. Michael Winterbottom, along with co-director Mat Whitecross, continues his formal experimentation with fiction/nonfiction hybrid filmmaking in this controversial work which was awarded the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.
September 16 (Saturday) 7 pm
Directed by James Longley
US 2006, 35mm, color, 94 minutes
Arabic and Kurdish with English subtitles
A stunning and vivid portrait of the current situation in Iraq, James Longley’s vérité-style documentary unfolds in three acts. The first section follows Mohammed, an eleven year-old auto mechanic who has lost his father and idolizes his overbearing boss. Part two documents the goings-on of the Moqtada-Sadr political movement which imposes its interpretation of Islamic law on the Iraqi people, causing great divides within the party. The final section explores the life of a Kurdish family who welcomes U.S. intervention after the atrocities of Saddam Hussein’s government. This powerful work earned prizes for directing, cinematography and editing at the Sundance Film Festival.
September 19 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Directed by Laura Poitras, Appearing in Person
US 2006, 35mm, color, 90 min.
In English, Arabic and Kurdish with English subtitles
Working alone in Iraq over eight months, director/cinematographer Laura Poitras creates an extraordinarily intimate portrait of Iraqis living under U.S. occupation. Her principal focus is Dr. Riyadh, an Iraqi medical doctor, father of six and Sunni political candidate. An outspoken critic of the occupation, he is equally passionate about the need to establish democracy in Iraq, arguing that Sunni participation in the January 2005 elections is essential. Yet all around him, Dr. Riyadh sees only chaos, as his waiting room fills each day with patients suffering the physical and mental effects of ever-increasing violence. Unfolding like a narrative drama, My Country, My Country follows the agonizing predicament and gradual descent of one man caught in the tragic contradictions of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and its project to spread democracy in the Middle East. (Film description courtesy of Zeitgeist Films)
September 20 (Wednesday) 7 pm & 9 pm
Directed by Andrew Berends
US 2005, video, color, 90 min.
After years of saving money, Ra’ad, an Iraqi portrait photographer, plans to open his own studio. On the night of the opening, he volunteers to guard an ancient mosque and is shot and killed by an American patrol. Andrew Berends’ vérité portrait goes inside the Shia insurgency to examine the ripple effect of the loss of a single human life in a region where thousands have died. The filmmaker’s observational gaze is appropriate in that he neither romanticizes nor condemns his subjects as they cope with the tragedy of war.
September 16 (Saturday) 9 pm
September 21 (Thursday) 8 pm
Directed by Garrett Scott and Ian Olds
US 2005, video, color, 78 min.
Occupation: Dreamland is an unflinchingly candid portrait of a squad of American soldiers deployed in the doomed Iraq city of Falluja during the winter of 2004. A collective study of the soldiers unfolds as they patrol an environment of low-intensity conflict creeping steadily towards catastrophe. Through the squads activities, the film documents the city’s waning stability before a final series of military assaults began in the spring of 2004 that effectively destroyed it. Filmmakers Garrett Scott (who passed away suddenly after the film’s completion) and Ian Olds give voice to soldiers held under a strict code of authority as they cope with an ambiguous, often lethal environment. The result is a revealing, sometimes surprising look at Army life, operations and the complexity of American war in the 21st century. (Film description courtesy of Rumur Releasing.)
September 22 (Friday) 7 pm & 9 pm
Directed by Deborah Scranton
US 2006, 35mm, color, 97 min.
In March 2004, just as the insurgent movement strengthened, several members of one National Guard unit arrived in Iraq, carrying digital video cameras. Working with filmmaker Deborah Scranton and an award-winning crew, they produced the first war movie filmed by soldiers themselves on the front lines in Iraq. The film follows three soldiers: Steve is a young carpenter with a dark, irreverent sense of humor who joined the Guard for college money; Zack is an inquisitive, ironic traveler and university student; Mike is a husband and father of two, driven to fight by honor and redemption. The War Tapes has received high praise on its release for its unfiltered, honest depiction of the events of the war and the soldiers who bear its burden. (Film description adapted from SenArt Films)