While 24-hour cable-news commentators continue blather non-stop about what it means for the Iraqi people to be free from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, this excellent documentary from Iraqi writer-turned-filmmaker Sinan Antoon presents their hopes and fears directly from the Iraqis themselves. Four months after Coalition troops toppled Saddam's regime in March 2003, Antoon returned to Iraq after 12 years of self-imposed exile to record the reactions of a people who, after decades of brutal oppression, now faced a freer but frighteningly uncertain future. Antoon saw plenty of deeply felt gratitude toward Coalition forces, particularly among those who suffered unspeakable horrors at the hands of Saddam's henchmen, but for many others the initial jubilation was already giving way to grave misgivings over the continuing U.S. presence. Their "liberation" began to feel a lot like an occupation an occupation by a foreign superpower with interests went beyond just the welfare of the Iraqi people. Taking his small camera crew to neighborhoods scarred by bombing, burning and looting, Antoon captures a deep distrust of the U.S. A hospital director who credits the salvation of his hospital not to U.S. soldiers but his own staff, and wishes that someone other than the Americans could have come to Iraq's rescue. Another man points out that while so many other buildings were bombed and looted, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil remained heavily guarded and unscathed throughout, just as he predicted it would before the battle for Baghdad had even begun. The head of the Iraqi Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, paints an impossibly rosy picture of Iraq's American-assisted present and future, despite the strong objections of listeners who accuse the man of flatly lying to Antoon's camera about unemployment and the lack of water and electricity. Many of the darkest fears and suspicions recorded here can be written off as the panic of a people left dazed in the immediate wake of a violent upheaval, but already we can see the beginnings of what will plague Iraq in the coming year: the deep and abiding resentment toward surviving members of the ruling Ba'thist party who hope to soon take their place in a future Iraqi government; perceived humiliations at the hands of U.S. soldiers and the strong anti-American sentiments that will serve as the bitter seeds of a growing insurgency. Antoon's own feelings are no secret an interview with a pro-American cab driver quickly turns into an angry precis of George H. Bush's cozy relationship with Saddam but for the most part he allows the people featured in this intentionally disordered documentary (at the outset Antoon states that he hopes the chaotic structure will mirror the current state of Iraq) to finally speak for themselves.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: NR
- Review: While 24-hour cable-news commentators continue blather non-stop about what it means for the Iraqi people to be free from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, this excellent documentary from Iraqi writer-turned-filmmaker Sinan Antoon presents their hopes and fear… (more)