The Absurdity of War in Occupation: Dreamland
The Absurdity of War in
by Henry Edward Hardy
The film Occupation: Dreamland (Greenhouse Pictures, 2005) tells the story of a squad of American soldiers from the US 82nd Airborne Division stationed at Fallujah, Iraq. Directors Ian Olds and the late Garrett Scott were “embedded” journalists with the 82nd Airborne in 2004. They have created a laconic, dark and incisive film giving their ground’s-eye view of Fallujah under the American occupation.”Dreamland” is the ironic name given by the soldiers to their rather dilapidated base at a former Ba’ath Party resort.
Occupation: Dreamland grips one with the terror and absurdity of the Iraq occupation. Who is the enemy? Who is a friend? Boredom and barracks humor frame instants of chaotic, harsh violence and everyday life. Two young Iraqis speak chillingly to the camera, saying, “The men of Fallujah are brave. Do not go to Fallujah. No Fallujah.” An Iraqi man in the street raises his arms to heaven and shouts that he is sick of guns. Frightened US soldiers in the middle of the night break down doors and force terrified families to kneel in front of them and warn menacingly (in English) that if anyone is up on the roof they will be shot.
This war in Iraq is not epic, as in the movie Gunner Palace. Olds and Scott present an occupation that is banal and good-natured and yet as menacing and disorienting as a J. G. Ballard novel. Some of the young soldiers observe that “something” had to be done after 9/11. Another soldier says, “Sometimes I’m thinking, ‘Man, if those were Iraqi soldiers coming and stomping on my door, I’d be running up there with a couple guns myself, you know.'” Another acidly observes, “I guess people could say that we’re stopping the stem of global terrorism, but the last time I checked, all the hijackers and a good number of people like Osama [bin Laden] were from Saudi Arabia.” (In fact 15 of the alleged 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, and four Egyptian).
The directors have a perspective that, by the selection of the material, one infers is critical of the occupation. But they have the wisdom to stand back and let the US soldiers and people of Iraq tell their own stories through their documented words and actions.
Occupation: Dreamland is available on DVD from http://www.occupationdreamland.com/dvd.html.
A version of this article appeared previously in Current Magazine and on Electric Current.
Copyright © 2006, 2007 Henry Edward Hardy
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