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Iraq in Fragments2006

  • 4.4
A film about Iraq for those tired of films about Iraq, James Longley's award-winning documentary is a powerful combination of art film and political provocation. Embedded for over two years in three different regions, Longley goes beyond the usual summary-of-problems, aesthetically impaired narratives of most Iraq documentaries to create three fully-realized, cinematic portraits of life in Iraq, its conflicts and problems, as well as its landscapes, sounds and beauty. In the heart of Baghdad, eleven year old Mohammed Haithem works as a mechanic to support his family, dodging burning buildings and roadside rubble while becoming swept up in rising anti-American sentiment and Shia/Sunni conflicts. Further south, in the Shiite-controlled area near Najaf, a young commander of the Moqtader Sadr Brigades (later one of the most powerful and infamous forces in the country) leads a religious sweep of the area, imposing religious law by as much force as necessary. For a father-and-son farming pair in the Kurdish north, however, life passes by a bit more simply, with the rhythms of nature the primary influence. Uniting these three tales through an aesthetic that pays as much attention to color, light and landscape as it does to politics, IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS flavors its insights with a beauty rarely seen in political documentaries. Defying our prior concepts of what war-ravaged countries should look like, Longley's painterly images are like nothing one has ever seen about Iraq and his stories like nothing one has ever heard. - Jason Sanders

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Winner of the Documentary "Directing" and "Cinematography" awards at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.


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Member Reviews (4)

Portrays the problems of postwar Iraq solely as a consequence of the invasion- but gives no historical context of what Iraq was like before 2003. By highlighting the mistakes of the US occupation the film becomes an anti-war polemic- at the price of being historically thorough and offering real insight into the country's current situation. "This", viewers are meant to conclude, "is what the invasion led to- terrorism, sectarian hatred, constant fear and misery." The cruelty of Saddam's regime is dismissed as irrelevant, as if there were no link between totalitarian rule and the strife that has followed.

1 member likes this review

Wow. What a film; it portrays the consequences of the Iraq war at the level of ordinary, everyday life for the people and, especially, for small children. We Americans probably will not want to view this film. Why would we, it will just make us feel stupid and ashamed of ourselves. Thankfully, the film was made anyway. Watch it, learn from it, be wary the next time.

1 member likes this review

I read about this film in an informative article by Patricia Aufderheide, "Your Country, My Country: How Films About The Iraq War Construct Publics" (citation below).

In this sense, a 'Public' is a group of people bound together by a common disposition. Documentaries play an important role in filling gaps left by the media. Aufderheide says "Iraq in Fragments" represents a form of documentary which constructs an ideal public, which she calls a 'pre-political public' or a 'proto-public' - one in which the viewer is posited as a global citizen, by understanding that there is a problem, which is a prerequisite to any action taken toward a solution.

Approaching the film from this angle, I did find what felt like profound and refreshing moments of pure objectivity. Longely highlights the confusion that results from many shifting pillars of leadership vying for a vacant office and amorphous regime, as well as how the turmoil effects once-hopeful and ambitious youths, causing them to turn away from education in exchange for seemingly more immediate needs.

Works Cited

"Your Country, My Country: How Films About The Iraq War Construct

Publics" by Patricia Aufderheide

Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media, Volume 48, Number

2, Fall 2007, pp. 56-65 (Article)

Excellent, immediate and believable based on multiple accounts and experience talking to Iraqis.