Occupation: Dreamland

BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE Soldiers and citizens try to keep the peace.
BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE Soldiers and citizens try to keep the peace.

Time Out says

For six weeks in 2004, filmmakers Ian Olds and Garrett Scott followed members of the 82nd Airborne around Fallujah, dogging a small platoon as its soldiers sat around arguing about supermodels or went out on night raids to round up possible insurgents. You'd expect either a liberal antiwar indictment or an embedded backslap for our boys over there, but what emerges is a counterpoint to the myth that all of the armed forces deployed in Iraq consist of brain-dead hicks just out to whup some ass. The men sympathize with the locals, claiming that if a foreign power had occupied their own hometown, they'd be just as angry. The frustration they are feeling with being dumped "into the shit" without a clear objective is counterpointed by their guilt at being occupiers and the occasional bursts of violence that punctuate their boredom.

That's not to say that the filmmakers don't have an opinion, as demonstrated by a news-footage montage detailing the region's deterioration that took place after filming stopped. But by giving these men a forum even before Fallujah became a household name and showing what has been conspicuously absent from our TV screens—actual footage of the conflict—the duo has made something far chewier than the usual bumper-sticker polemics. "It seems like a jumbled mess," one bespectacled private admits, "but I guess there are people smarter than me who know what's going on." The look he gives after that statement speaks volumes. (Opens Fri; Cinema Village.)
David Fear



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