Iraq War Films: Fact of Fiction?
America’s most significant 20th century conflicts, from World War I through the Vietnam War, have been defined in cinematic form by narrative films, from All Quiet on the Western Front and The Best Years of Our Lives to The Deer Hunter. (These more complicated films, as opposed to more propagandist works, have come after the war.)
By comparison, narrative films about Iraq have been scarce. Perhaps this dearth of narrative films about Iraq may be that because the conflict is still so fresh, the documentary genre – with its trademark immediacy – somehow is more suitable. It also may be that in the face of the Bush administration’s once successful efforts to shape public opinion about and support for the war, filmmakers feel a greater onus in exploring the complexities of a war that the mainstream media has until recently tiptoed around.
This weekend marks the release of films from both genres, exploring the war’s impact: Philip Haas’ narrative feature The Situation and James Longley’s Oscar-nominated documentary Iraq in Fragments. Viewed side by side, these two films deal with similar content: daily violence, ethnic division, and the Iraqis’ uneasy relationship with American occupiers.