Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Resistance. I heard it's the secret of joy.

I'm sick and should crawl into bed very soon but I absolutely must tell you about the film I just watched, My Country, My Country.

The "country" in question is Iraq. The film is exquisite. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. No, it did not win. For those of you who have been living under a rock, An Inconvenient Truth won. You know, the Al Gore film. I have already told you that it did not deserve to win, but now, heartbroken, I reiterate.

For starters, I've just about had it with all these Al Gore supporters crawling out of the woodwork. Even suggesting he run for president! To them I can only say, where in god's name were you seven years ago? The man DID run. He WON. But you were all content to sit around and let Dubya and the Warmongers usurp the White House, because, I don't know, I guess that a little healthy outrage might have disrupted your Prozac/remote control regimen.

Next, I hate to belabor the point (wait, no I don't, just kidding) but An Inconvenient Truth was really not a good film. I mean, seriously. It was a great lecture. Far more interesting than some lectures I've attended recently. But not a film. And can we talk about how the "cinematic" touches they added were things like Al Gore flying to his next gig, looking down from his plane window, forlorn, presumably lamenting that the Earth upon which he gazes is being destroyed. Well, for god's sake, man! How about you park your private jet! If I were a documentary filmmaker, I would be deeply offended by the award going to that film.

As for what should have won, I still don't know why the far superior film about raping the earth for oil was not even nominated. That would be Who Killed the Electric Car? Brilliant. And this is to say nothing of the triumph that is Jesus Camp, which was nominated, but sadly did not triumph on the big night.

But now, I declare that neither Jesus nor Electric should have gone home with Oscar. Because now I have seen My Country, My Country.

It took me on a journey. It showed me humanity. It did so in quiet, subtle ways. It made me remember when those elections were held, those elections Bush et. al. heralded as a sign of triumph, of the Iraqis embracing democracy. What does that mean? no really? I'll give you a dollar if you can give me an honest to god explanation of how those elections were "embracing democracy." That doesn't mean anything; it's a catchphrase. It's useless. Like "family values." All the meaning has gone out of those words because of how they are bandied about by people intent on manipulating other people who might vote for them.

The January 2005 elections in Iraq, as we are reminded in this film, had an alarming tendency to go the way Bush wanted them to. That is to say, the Sunni voices were not exactly heard. Of course, the Bush Administration is pretty good at that here, disenfranchising voters, so why not be good at it there? It's astonishing to watch the election observers, the Iraqi Election Commission Workers, the ballot convoys, the bags of election supplies getting loaded onto planes. The preparation meetings. Preparation for the "show."

This is not the only point the film makes though. In fact, what the film does is show us Iraq, a place we never see. It shows us one of the most inspiring people I've seen in quite some time, Dr. Riyadh, who is trying desperately to do some good while on this planet. He's a doctor, a friend and leader and support to his community, a candidate in the elections. He's inspiring. I watch him and I remember that I have good intentions to "help people" and "change the world" and all that jazz. Well, we clearly know the road those intentions pave.

The filmmaker, Laura Poitras, knows the power of people and images. She weaves them together subtly. It is tremendous. I cannot emphasize this enough. Do yourself a favor and watch this film. If you STILL haven't tried Netflix, just tell me. I can send you a free trial invite, you know.

I can't remember reacting this strongly to a film about what we're doing in Iraq since I saw Gunner Palace.

It occurs to me that some people have not watched either film. Or any other film about Iraq. That some people have watched no documentary films, whatsoever. I think they do have their televisions, though. And their remote controls...gotta have my remote control...gotta have my pleasure...don't make me think...don't make me feel something...least of all some untidy emotion like outrage...where's my pill...where's my soma...where is it...?!

"Oh, brave new world, that has such people in it!"
-- from Shakespeare's The Tempest

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