Although it was completed less than two years ago, there’s something of a period quality to this beautifully photographed documentary snapshot of Iraq in transition – certainly, it’s hard now to imagine anyone maintaining, as one Kurd does here, that ‘nobody can escape America’s reach’. But it’s an impressionistic rather than an argumentative film, divided into three parts with the feel more of a video diary than journalistic reportage. The first segment, set in Sunni Baghdad, focuses on 11-year-old apprentice mechanic Mohammed, and achieves a personalised portrait of a hopeful, troubled kid; the middle part, following a young preacher in Moqtada Sadr’s militant Shiite movement in the south, is the most politically, aesthetically and violently charged; the third section, centring on the friendship of two boys in the Kurdish north, is almost pastoral in comparison. True to its title, it’s a fractured vision of a fragmented nation, full of remarkable moments – an alcohol raid on a market prompts nostalgia for Saddam, US forces become alien through the filters of media and street protocol – but a frustratingly disconnected viewing experience.
Friday January 19 2007