Review: Voices from an occupation

Self-defeatingly plethoric but still invaluable, the Iraq documentary currently takes the form of “Meeting Resistance,” a small but significant portrait of Iraq’s insurgency. The accounts it provides — from resistance members themselves — of who the insurgents are and why they are waging a violent struggle against the U.S. occupation contrast compellingly with the scenario presented on our own shores. The film is a worthy addition to the growing collection of cinema that the Iraq morass has spawned.

Filmed in 2003 and 2004, the movie consists largely of interviews conducted with a handful of fighters in the Iraqi resistance, a campaign organized shortly after the fall of Baghdad to free Iraq from U.S. occupation.

Baghdad’s Adhamiya section is the setting. The subjects are mostly male jihadists who, with their names withheld and their faces obscured, are identified as “The Teacher,” “The Imam” and the like. Though their backgrounds differ, all are working to take back Iraq from the United States, which they generally regard as a monstrous oppressor whose modus operandi includes divide-and-conquer tactics and torture (Abu Ghraib is addressed). They view the resistance as a moral mission that is both nationalist and Muslim in nature. Many seek martyrdom.

The movie’s directors, Molly Bingham and Steve Connor, are photojournalists, and their film sometimes feels like reportage instead of cinema. It pales next to Iraq docs like “No End in Sight” or “My Country, My Country” in complexity and vibrancy. Its blurring of visual identities, while apparently necessary, results in a talking-heads film without faces we can relate to.

Problematically, the filmmakers offer no hint of where they stand as their subjects describe bombings and other disturbing actions. Nor do they address how the insurgency has changed since the movie’s filming.

But as this rare and informative presentation of insurgent voices convincingly discredits the common view that the Iraqi resistance is the work of outside rousers, the film succeeds as noteworthy big-screen journalism. It is also an impressive look at how living under an occupation prompts hatred and violence.

Whether a young fighter is describing what it’s like to say good-bye to your family when leaving on a journey to possible martyrdom or an insurgent isasking how Americans would feel if Iraqi soldiers rode tanks through American streets and bullied the American populace, terrific moments exist here.

Not just an Iraq-doc flavor of the week, this film is small but important and memorable.

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