January 10, 2006
Occupation Dreamland (DVD)
"Occupation Dreamland" is a documentary that will change the way you perceive the war in Iraq, but for reasons you might not expect.
The film follows Alpha Company, 2nd Platoon from the 82nd Airborne Division patrolling and securing Falluja, Iraq in 2003 and 2004 prior to the major insurrection that cost heavy American casualties to retake the city. "Dreamland" is documentary filmmaking at its finest.
The film prefers tension to action as you witness the growing hostility between the soldiers and the people of Falluja. In an ominous moment while soldiers are patrolling the city, a young Iraqi man looks into the camera and says, "This is Falluja…This is Falluja, not just any other city. … Be careful of Falluja."
Directors Garrett Scott and Ian Olds show true craftsmanship by letting the harrowing events, and the soldiers on the ground, speak for themselves. Unflinching, candid, and complex, "Occupation Dreamland" gives a firsthand account of the bravery of American soldiers doing their job and what was commanded of them. But as you watch the events unfold, you come away with one unmistakable conclusion: the presence of American soldiers is making the situation in Iraq worse. Scott and Olds don't have to tell you this war is unwinnable, you'll see it for yourself in this exemplary film.
The mark of a great documentary – especially when the camera is following the U.S. Army during a war – is when you ask yourself: "How in the hell were they ever able to make this film? Who gave these guys this kind of access?" Scott and Olds were embedded with the 82nd Airborne and with their camera turned on they show you everything. You see soldiers in Humvees, machine guns pointed, rolling into town to talk and befriend Fallujan civilians even though the soldiers don't speak the language nor have enough interpreters. You see soldiers duck for cover as random explosions and machinegun fire fly overhead. Most shocking are the nighttime raids when soldiers kick down doors to people's houses, put women and children at gunpoint, in order to arrest insurgents and search for weapons. You see Iraqi men blindfolded and loaded onto trucks to be taken away. Soldiers speak of their friends who were killed and wounded. And Army officers hold meetings to manipulate and pressure young soldiers who are about to end their tour of duty to reenlist and serve another tour in Iraq asking them "Do you know what you want to do with your life?"
"Occupation Dreamland" is a tribute to the men and women serving in Iraq by telling their story, offering all points of view, and avoiding stereotypes or simplicity. Some soldiers believe in what they're doing in Iraq. Some believe they're in Iraq for oil. Still others ponder why they're in Iraq at all when the September 11th hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. One soldier points out that Cheney's former company Halliburton gets all of the no-bid contracts for reconstruction and says, "War is money." And several soldiers acknowledge what is really happening to the people of Falluja and admit that if there was an occupying army in their hometown they would fight back too.
"Occupation Dreamland" is not an anti-war documentary, but simply a great film.
It is difficult to watch because you know you're witnessing the seeds of a coming insurrection that will claim the lives of American soldiers and countless Iraqi civilians.
Be careful of a film like "Occupation Dreamland." It's not like any other documentary. It just might change the way you think about the war in Iraq.