Iraq in Fragments (2006)

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Filmmaker James Longley offers three thumbnail sketches of Iraq as the nation struggles to its feet following the American Invasion in this documentary. In the film’s first chapter, Mohammed Haithem is an 11-year-old forced to make his own way in Bagdhad after the disappearance of his parents. Mohammed earns his keep working in an auto-repair shop, though he would prefer to go back to school, and has developed a precocious cynicism about the presence of U.S. troops along with a fear of the ongoing battles between Sunni and Shia forces.

Elsewhere, the struggle of the Kurdish people of Iraq is personified in a handful of people working together on a farm, where they tend crops, make bricks, and look to their blighted past as well as hoping for a blefter future. And the fundamentalist Shiite cabal of Moqtada Sadr is profiled as they travel from Najaf to Naseriyah, promoting government based on a strict interpretation of Muslim law.

As Moqtada Sadr’s military cadres enforce the rule they have set down, they clash with American soldiers, further dividing an already polarized populace. Iraq in Fragments was screened in competition at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival… (Barnes & Noble)

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If you want to see an action-packed, fast-moving film about people who think and act in familiar and yet highly exciting and entertaining ways, then this is probably not the film for you. However if you want to treat yourself to a gorgeous, subtle and masterfully-rendered portrait of Iraqi life under occupation, then I highly recommend this film.

I can wholeheartedly say that this is one of the finest documentaries I have ever seen. The cinematography, music, editing and sound design are superb. The character development is deep and nuanced. I learned a great deal by watching this film, both about Iraqi culture and about the art of filmmaking. May the director James Longley live long, and may he gift us with many more of his films!

James Longley’s poetic and visually ravishing film accomplishes in 94 short minutes what 4 years of mainstream journalism have scarcely been able to – it provides us a rare glimpse into the lives (and perhaps more importantly, minds) of ordinary Iraqis. But it is not merely a work of observational humanism. Through these characters’ eyes, the film almost prophetically reveals the larger forces at play as Iraqi society begins to tear apart at the seams following the U.S. invasion – all without ever becoming overtly political.

Though Iraq in Fragments had a great festival run, has received nearly unanimous critical praise, and was nominated for an Oscar, relatively few people had the privilege to see it in the theater, and I hope that will be corrected by this DVD release…

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