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Friday, August 22, 2008

BATTLE FOR HADITHA (2007) - Nick Broomfield

In complete contrast to the just-reviewed In The Valley Of Elah is Nick Broomfield’s Battle For Haditha, a dramatisation of the massacre of 24 Iraqi people that happened in Iraq in 2005. While the actual event is part of a US Army cover-up, the events in The Battle For Haditha attempt to shed light on the situation. Broomfield, a controversial documentarian didn’t have access to all the facts. So in an attempt to fill in the gaps in information, Broomfield opted to shoot the film as a docudrama instead of the format he has used for such films as Kurt & Courtney and Biggie & Tupac.

Battle For Haditha is shot from a number of different perspectives. The people depicted in each point of view are not what you’d expect. On one hand we have the two men responsible for the IED that kills one marine and injures two others. They don’t realise the effect their actions will have. They’re not monsters, and when the impact of the attack is fully realised they express great remorse. On the other side of the coin, we see the marines responsible for the massacre in Haditha. Again, these men are not empty-headed killing machines. They’re led by Cpl. Ramirez, a young soldier who laments how he’s being treated by the military while at the same time, is enraged by seeing his fellow men killed by IEDs. And the final perspective is from that of the Iraqi citizens. We focus mostly on a young couple, about to bring a child into the world. They love and respect each other equally, different to the male-dominated relationship we’re led to believe is in that society.

The film opens with the marines answering the question that has haunted the conflict since the US re-entered Iraq in 2003- ‘Why are we here?’ While Broomfield doesn’t seek an answer to that question, he does seek a reason behind one of the darkest events of the war. It’d be very easy to paint either side of the situation as mindless, evil or fundamental. But the film never looks for this easy way out. There is no black and white view of the war in this film. There are many shades of gray.

The film is shot digitally, which adds to the documentary feel of the film. But it’s clear that this is a dramatisation. There is a clear structure to it. While Broomfield didn’t use a script, he did have an outline for scenes and let the actors improvise the dialogue. Because some of the actors are ex-marines, they do add to the authenticity of the events depicted on screen, even if at times, the dialogue is a little hampered by the inexperience of the actors. Having said that, the acting is pretty good all round. When things go bad, you feel them go bad. There is a real sense of tension that hangs over the film. In ways, it’s similar to Paul Greengrass’ United 93. The editing of the film is excellent, and you feel that all parties are on a collision course that is going to end in tragedy.

Battle For Haditha isn’t a film that will be widely seen. It’s a dark film. Not really a recruitment film for the US Army. But it does it’s best to fill in the pieces and depict an event that should not have happened. It tries to give the event a sense of history. And for that reason it must be admired.


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