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Iraq In Fragments (2006) 94min

November 21st, 2007 by Maxim · No Comments · 2,573 Views

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This powerful Oscar-nominated documentary from director James Longley is a depiction of stories of modern-day Iraqis as they try to cope with the war, with life without Saddam, without law and order, occupation, violence and division of country into sectarian regions. Finally a documentary that talks about Iraqis and their suffering, unlike many documentaries recently that focused on U.S. troops and U.S. government (which is fine). The most heartbreaking part of the movie is interviews with children. One of them is 11-year old Suni boy from Baghdad, who lost his father because he was imprisoned for speaking outloud badly about Saddam. His story is in the first third of the movie. The next two parts are about Shia Muslims in Southern Iraq, particularly followers of Moqtada al-Sadr, and a Kurdish family in Northern Iraq.

The movie is very visual. There’s no narration. I loved the long close-ups of faces: you can tell so much about people’s life and feelings and what they have been through by their faces… A great moment too when a U.S. helicopters fly overhead and the camera just shows faces of people and their eyes following the helicopter. Very beautiful film. Cinematography is just amazing. And How did the film-makers manage to make the presence of the camera and crew so invisible? This kind of film-making places the viewer right in the middle of the events – you will feel like you actually are among the people.

One of the things this documentary shows is that nobody likes the occupation (after all Americans supported Saddam for 35 years, so why should Iraqis trust their promises?); that Iraqis do in fact know what democracy is; they understand the importance of elections. They don’t want to obey an imposed government and want to elect their own. They understand how political parties work, but they don’t have laws governing the parties. One thing stuck me in particular: on elderly Kurdish man showing his envy for Jews when he said, “Israelis are so few, but they have their own country, their own flag. Why can’t Kurds have their own flag?”

The media that reports daily news seldom ventures outside of the Green zone. But film-makers clearly had an extraordinary access to all parts of Iraq. How in the world could Longley get in the car with Shi’ite militiamen as they arrested an alcohol vendor at the flee-market? Apparently Longley was living in one of the families for almost two years. The cinematography is just outstanding. Such a great quality!

This documentary is a breakthrough in both style and substance. It offers a view into lives of regular Iraqis and hopefully will break quite a few stereotypes. For many people it will be a great insight into Arab culture. The interviews were pure poetry.

Quotes from the film:

“What’s changed since Saddam? I’ve done nothing and I’m still sitting on the floor with a bag over my head!”

In frustration: “Why don’t they just take the oil and leave?! We had never benefited from the oil anyway. Whatever happens, a working man will still be a working man, and a few rich people will get richer”.

“They took away one Saddam and brought us one hundred”.

Watch this film and make up your own mind.

Trivia: James Longley studies cinematography in Moscow.

Director, camera,sound,music: James Longley.
Producers: James Longley, Yahia Sinno, Sara Bernstein
DVD contains interview with director James Longley.

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Tags: DVD · Documentary · Movies · War

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