Wednesday, April 25, 2007


The high cost of "democracy"

By Edward Copeland
I still haven't seen Iraq in Fragments or Deliver Us From Evil, but I just caught up with My Country, My Country, another of this year's Oscar nominees for documentary feature and, as with many documentaries that didn't even make the final cut, this look at the months leading up to Iraq's "landmark" elections is a powerful, riveting documentary that damn sure deserved the prize over Al Gore's PowerPoint presentation.

Directed by Laura Poitras, originally for PBS' "P.O.V." series, My Country, My Country plays like a coherent version of Syriana, only it's all true which makes it all the more heartbreaking.

Though My Country, My Country tells the story from several angles, the main focus is on Dr. Riyadh, a Sunni physician who has spent years trying to help his fellow Iraqis both medically and financially. He even visits prisoners at the fence of Abu Ghraib to chronicle their complaints and needs. One patient tells him how her husband insists she go to work because he needs money because he's joined Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Once the woman insists that she's spending the handouts from the doctor for food, not violence, he gives her what he can.

Riyadh decides to become a candidate for the national assembly for the Iraq Islamic Party, though his run is complicated by fellow Sunnis who feel they should boycott the vote and his own family and friends who fear voting will get them killed. Dr. Riyadh tries to explain to the doubters that they must participate if they want to have any say in what happens to their country in the future, but it's a tough sell, especially when a friend's son is abducted ahead of the vote.

The documentary also looks at other aspects of the pre-election time in Iraq, focusing on preparations by the U.S. military to make sure things run smoothly to private security contractors out to acquire arms as backup to any problems.

Though the film is set more than two years ago, it's amazing how little has changed: Riyadh's family spend much of their time in the dark as electricity remains a sporadic luxury in Baghdad; bombs, kidnapping and murders are a common occurrence; everyone expresses dissatisfaction with the U.S. occupation (a common refrain is that Saddam Hussein is a virus that the country just can't shake).

The film bears striking similarities to the story shown on 60 Minutes on Sunday about another doctor who tries to stay and help as most doctors have fled the country and another Iraqi who has to arm himself just to drive his children to school.

While the film is quite illuminating, it does lag a bit in the final half-hour, especially since you know that two years later, things would only be worse.

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true, much better than Al Gore's slide-show.

it's a good film...i wish they had more footage so they could have told more of a story and not slapped some random scenes in.
Hmmm ... sounds like something I would like to watch.

I have recently posted "Loose Change" on the site, and I have been bothered by it ever since. Something is not right in the States, folks.
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