Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Voices of Iraq

Voices of Iraq is an earlier documentary that follows a concept that was supposedly creative then, because of the recent development of the insurgency in April 2004, foreigners could not escape the confines of the Green Zone anymore ; undeterred, the filmmakers got 150 cheap video cameras and distributed them all over Iraq, and then retrieving them a few months back to begin a gruelling editing process that culminates in a film that sports the tag: 'Filmed and directed by the people of Iraq.' this approach proved to be indeed an inventive path to the final product so much so that the film was preserved by the national board as a distinguished work, it is even mentioned for that merit in the Wikipedia. Few filmmakers would concede to such a lack of creative control over their output, their only true input in the film aside from the editing process (which plays a big role in the final feel and storytelling nevertheless) is choreographing the documentary progress with newsheadlines by which the world-at-large identified Iraq at that given moment, which by then involved Falluja and Abu Gharib, it's quite a minor revelation that indicates how little you know about the 'warzone' you read about in the paper and what it really felt like at the time. Being mid-2004 when things weren't so bad, the film carries a tone of cautious but troubled optimism, the first thing that strikes you about the movie is its dynamics: this is not a somber flick (Iraq in Fragments) nor does it try to be one (My Country, My Country) - absolutely no grand truths are revealed in the overall course of the movie ; even though the picture continously reminds us of the atrocities of Saddam Hussein, it never feels like a grim condemnation : The general tone is basically fun as Iraqi hip-hop music serves as a light backdrop against which no person captures the screen for more than a few moments, most of those interviewed are as casual and flippant as in any home video and some of those moments were hugely entertaining for me: the film begins with an immensely lovable six-year-old girl from Falluja who tells the story of the American attack on Falluja with the cheery mannerism of Elmo ; a disarming symbol of a city that become synonymous with violence, a 50-years-old member of the now-notorious Iraqi police sings an Italian opera in the mess hall, a 12 year old emerges wet from the Tigris while the filmmaker comments on his big ass transitions into an exploding car bomb in Sadr City, an insightful look at the Kurdish annual re-enactment which bizarrely mirrors the Shia cememoration of the Battle Of Kerbala as an elderly man tells a story of a Kurdish woman giving birth aboard a military truck, and a dodgy man recounts the tale of how he and his compatriots allegedly tried to assassinte Uday Hussein back in 1996, this is just a small proportion of the extraordinarily diverse out in display in this caustic ride in the place which currently is the most dangerous spot on God's Earth. Of course, with 150 inexperienced cameramen in a war-torn third world country, that means you have to be satisified with 90 minutes of shakiness which ironically only adds up to the level of realism and detail, i'm not obsessed about a film getting it real, but this was really fun to watch, especially in the abundance of energetic scenes it contains, whether they're children squandering for attention or a mass of frightened people in a car bomb accident. Voices of Iraq is the sort of movie that doesn't want to move you or shake your whole belief system, it's an entertaining, simple ride where even the most tragic points are rendered like a neutral progression of life, it is an accurate reprensentation of the Iraqi people from the day-to-day perspective at the time...and besides, what is not to recommend about a film which surprisingly features two women you were previously romantically involved with?

HIGHS: Simple fun, accurate reprensetation of social diversity, focused and never meandering.
LOWS: One or two lines of the translation are inaccurate, a little too much focus on the horrors of Saddam slightly deterrs the MTV vibe.
FINAL RATING: Four and a half members out of a possible five of the heavy metal band Accrasscida, who are almost in every fucking Iraq documentary that I review, here's a stereotype for you: Filmmaker wanna make Iraq look cool for folks back home to see? Show the local heavy metal band. Me cool. Me play guitar. wow.