Iraq in Fragments

Iraq in Fragments accurately describes not only the moving documentary by James Longley, but also the current political and social situation in the middle eastern country. Presented in three parts – Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish – Iraq in Fragments is a documentary set apart from the rest. Winning Best Documentary Cinematography, Best Documentary Editing, and Best Documentary Director at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, Iraq in Fragments has the official Sundance sanction of being a little better made than the rest of the current documentaries about the war-torn country of Iraq.

Presenting Iraqis in a very human and unbiased way, Iraq in Fragments starts out with the intense portrait of a young Sunni boy named Mohammed who has been “adopted” by a garage owner who mistreats, verbally abuses, and mocks the poor child. His life is examined in detail as he goes from work to school and back again. Listening to the older Sunni men discuss the American occupation around the back door of the garage is akin to listening to American men discuss the war on a back porch next to a barbeque pit. Their opinions may simply be their opinions but they are given ample time to discuss them and the audience is given ample opportunity to digest them.

Part two is devoted to the examination of Shia Sadr followers in two cities as they prepare for elections. An extremely intimate portrayal of Shia “death squads”, as they have been called in the American news, shows the Iraqi police as they arrest men for allegedly selling alcohol in a town market. How Longley managed to get the footage he has is anybody’s guess. Risking life and limb for the proper shots, Longley is able to present an Iraq few may have ever seen, though several non-fiction books have mentioned the circumstances portrayed.

The final chapter focuses on the Kurdish farmers of Iraq, who welcome the American forces and celebrate the  replacement of Saddam. The focus of this chapter is on a young Kurdish boy who dreams of being a doctor some day. This section of the film, entitled Kurdish Spring, is the most moving and ultimately upbeat portion of the film, and marks a good choice for the final piece of the fragmented Iraqi portrait.

Throughout the film, Longley opts for intimate stories of individuals rather than a broad portrayal of all of Iraq, and he succeeds on all accounts. This may leave some viewers slightly confused, however, as each section is not properly introduced as Sunni, Shia, or Kurdish. Iraq in Fragments is a film dedicated to the educated viewer, and those who have done their research on Iraq will surely appreciate the individually honest portraits that Longely has painted here. For well studied filmgoers, Iraq in Fragments offers the kind of inside view of a wartorn country that we have been waiting for. The story is not bogged down or enmeshed in a narrator’s diaglogue, designed to sway the viewer’s opinion in any direction; the footage is simply displayed as is. Longley spent upwards of two years in Iraq gathering this footage, and it was well worth the while. For a true portrait of each of the three sections of Iraq, Iraq in Fragments can’t be topped.

To view the trailer for Iraq in Fragments, visit Youtube 
To purchase Iraq in Fragments, visit Amazon

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