Cinema Signal:
The Fall of Baghdad
by Jon Lee Anderson

Writing, Directing, and Producing Documentary Films and Videos

. "Occupation: Dreamland"

This is a "you are there" experience with our troops in Fallouja, Iraq in the winter of 2004. It's a documentary formulated out of footage made by an embedded camera team with a straightforward approach to simply record what went on and assemble it all in a chronological way. It doesn't do much in the way of storytelling technique or dramatic structuring, leaving that to the nature of the subject itself. My take on it is both pro and con.

The primary value in it is an enormous one as it visually and viscerally details headline news that we take with our meals at home. It adds a sense of place, the thinking of our men and women on the ground in a terrifying environment as they face deadly enemies and the population of a country that we invaded!

It's must viewing for parents of our troops in Iraq even though their loved ones aren't in the movie. It comes as close as possible to giving us civilians at home a vivid idea of what their relatives and friends are going through on patrol during the last days of a tensely threatening city.

For this purpose, the filmmakers, Garrett Scott and Ian Olds were granted access to all operations of the Army's 82nd Airborne, living in close contact with the unit while interviewing individuals off duty and going out on patrol and in the midst of firefights. The film record helps to unveil the nature of a very lethal war in which you can't always tell who your enemy is, and you're as much a political spokesman, policeman and on-the-street psychologist as you are a soldier.

It conveys the street level realities of our troops engaged in a treacherous war in much the same way as a recent predecessor, "Gunnar Palace" which, through a more artful presentation is the better for it. Which is not to say that this slice of reality doesn't add up to a powerful statement with all it witnesses and unsparingly documents.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Troop on the ground
Fallouja, Iraq, circa 2004
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