The flow of ever more nuanced documentaries about Iraq continues, with each entry setting a higher standard for the next. Normally, that’d have movie lovers doing cartwheels, but, as Laura Poitras’s keenly observed chronicle of the 2005 Iraqi election reveals, celebration is still a ways off.
Eschewing the aesthetic audacity of Iraq in Fragments by James Longley, My Country, My Country distinguishes itself with a contemplative restlessness—essentially the demeanor of its protagonist, Dr. Riyadh, a Sunni physician and candidate for office living in Baghdad. Poitras accompanies the doctor as he makes his rounds, banters with his adoring family and interacts with various non-Iraqi players in the election. These juxtapositions leave little question as to why he seems both desperately hopeful and unrepentantly cynical: Worked to the bone, Dr. Riyadh battles the political indifference of his patients, the officious cruelty of the occupiers and harassment of his kin by militants.
Poitras’s ability to be everywhere at once complements Dr. Riyadh’s story and, perhaps better than any Iraq doc thus far, provides a full picture of the situation there (at least as of this past January). For every self-serving Yank hard-on who bellows about the election in terms of a “show,” we’re reminded that there are scores of people for whom it’s a matter of extracting something worthwhile from a long season of death and despair. (Opens Fri; Cinema Village.) — Mark Holcomb