The Situation reviewed by Stanley Kauffmann

From the review:

A few months ago, the American documentarian James Longley gave us Iraq in Fragments, which looked under the big news stories to some strands of Iraqi life, less about the war than about living. Now Philip Haas, the American director of such intelligent fiction films as The Music of Chance and Angels and Insects, has made a sort of companion piece to Longley’s film, called The Situation. This is the first picture that, fictional though it is, tries to deal with some realities of the Iraq war itself. Familiarly, the first casualty of war is truth: Haas tries to cut through the public presentation of the war to some of the actualities. 

The key person in this project was obviously the screenwriter. She is a journalist named Wendell Steavenson who spent a year in Iraq and whose writings attracted Haas. She would surely be the last to claim that she has rendered the whole of the situation, but there seems no reason to doubt the verity of what she does tell us–stories of Iraqi corruption, ambition, sectarian commitments, family devotion; stories of American military and political intent being ground into accommodating shape by daily wear and tear. Very little of the screenplay is surprising, yet it continually jogs us because of its immediacy and because it is so different from what we are fed every day from Washington. For instance, no one in this film, Americans especially, ever uses terms like “victory” or “stay the course.” And the Iraqi talk about Americans is often full of dislike and contempt and plans to exploit. 

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