Sex, Iraq, and pop culture

By ELLEE DEAN  |  January 11, 2007

The study is something of a presidential report card — there are 78 recommended actions for improving our administration’s failing grades.

Imperial Life In The Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran — Washington Post reporter Chandrasekaran describes the disparity between the Who’s-Your-Baghdaddy-T-shirt-selling Green Zone (Coalition Provisional Authority headquarters) and the very red, warring country outside. Check out John Freeman’s review here.

The films
The War Tapes — The first feature-length war documentary shot by soldiers — Sergeant Steve Pink, Sergeant Zack Bazzi, and Specialist Mike Moriarty, all members of the New Hampshire National Guard — is, well, sort of homegrown. The movie opens with the cameras wrenching under attack — we’re not in Massachusetts anymore, though Sergeant Pink’s thick Kingston accent is real enough.

During deployment, Sergeant Bazzi admits, “Do I really wanna go [to Iraq]? Probably not.” But in an interview with PBS’s Tavis Smiley and Tapes director Denorah Scranton upon his return, Bazzi tells us that he doesn’t think “Americans have the right to be insulated and protected from this war.” And that’s exactly what this kids-in-the-war-zone documentary does not do. The film is available on DVD.

Iraq In Fragments — As the film’s title suggests, Iraq in Fragments is a story told from three perspectives — one Sunni, one Shiite, and one Kurdish. In his director’s statement, James Longley (Gaza Strip) writes, “It was never my intention to make a ‘war documentary.’ I wanted to make a film about Iraq as a country, about the people of Iraq.” Longley’s film succeeds in rendering the country, and the people of Iraq at war, in sepia frames, engulfed in rising black smoke and the hum of crowds and war vehicles.

The film screened in November at the Kendall Square Cinema. Check the film Web site (iraqinfragments.com) for upcoming screenings and the DVD release date.

Obsession — I caught the airing of this documentary on Fox Network, on a plane, after an episode of The Dog Whisperer. This film, like mauled dogs, is not for the weak-of-stomach, which I unfortunately found out while in seat-back-upright position, face-to-face with graphic footage of terrorist acts set to a hip-hop soundtrack. The film, which sets out to relate radical Islam to Nazism, draws on extensive Arab and Iranian television footage — comparing Americans to pigs, etc. — and commentary from counterterrorism figures such as Nonie Darwish, the daughter of a Fedayeen terrorist. I won’t comment on the parallel, except to say that I could not stop watching it, with its scenes of things such as little girls fervently chanting Jihadi kill-Americans-in-the-name-of-Allah. The film is available for pre-release order on DVD.

The web sites
Riverbendblog.blogspot.com — Leave it to me to pick a “Girl Blog from Iraq.” Iraqi girly-girl-turned-blog-award winner Riverbend (her pseudonym) blogs about Iraqi culture — check out her link to iraqimusic.com — and politics in a time of war, where “A day in the life of the average Iraqi has been reduced to identifying corpses, avoiding car bombs, and attempting to keep track of which family members have been detained, which ones have been exiled, and which ones have been abducted.” Her New Year’s post: the top 10 reasons you know your country is in trouble.

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