Hollywood Has Joined in on the Exploitation of Iraq with New Film
by Dorothy Woodend
The other day my mother said she’d just read a great novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called Half of a Yellow Sun. The story, about Biafra’s struggle for independence from Nigeria, chronicles the life and death of one disparate group of people. “It was great because it was actually about something: death, war, survival,” said my mother. “But it didn’t make anyone pathetic.”
Her words echoed in my brain as I watched The Situation, a new film directed by Philip Haas, and written by former war correspondent Wendell Steavenson. The film takes place in current day Iraq (although it was primarily filmed in Morocco) and it makes everybody out to be pathetic. And while this is a major problem, it is not even the film’s greatest flaw.
In the film’s opening sequence, two young Iraqi boys are accosted by an American military patrol. It’s past curfew and instead of sending the boys on their way with a warning, the Americans throw them off a bridge. One of the kids swims to shore, but the other drowns. You might think the plot of the film would hang on this crime and its aftermath, but you’d be wrong. This is merely an aperitif, a little amuse-bouche as it were, for the pottage yet to come.
While the country threatens to dissolve into a seething stew of civil war, insurgency and occupation, a beautiful blond journalist is falling in love with an Iraqi photographer. The real meat of the story is that of Anna Molyneux (Connie Nielsen), a Western reporter eager to carve a career out of the bleeding beast of a dying nation. Anna is hot on the trail of corruption and violence in Iraq; or perhaps, she’s simply hot. Men everywhere take one look at her blond, world-weary beauty and keel over. Quite literally. Her part-time boyfriend is an American intelligence officer named Dan Murphy (Damian Lewis) and the other man in her life is Zaid (Mido Hamada), a fellow photojournalist, and the most sensitive, new age Iraqi man ever conceived in the febrile mind of a screenwriter. It’s a Harlequin romance with a little grit thrown in.