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Awesome: 42.31%
Worth A Look53.85%
Average: 0%
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Total Crap: 3.85%

2 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Occupation: Dreamland
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by Scott Weinberg

"Forget what the networks show you; this is what's going on in Iraq."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: Now that all the political documentaries have had their collective moment in the sun, we can turn our sights to the films that focus on the people on the front lines. It must be pretty easy for the lefties and righties to spout their opinions and assertions from the comfort of home, so it comes as a refreshing change of pace to see a documentary that spends time with the real-life participants of a truly confusing war.

Odds are you've already heard of a documentary entitled Gunner Palace. It's a gritty and controversial depiction of aimless American soldiers who spend much of their time in a shelled-out Baghdad palace when they're not writing rap songs, kicking down doors and interrogating people. It's a fascinating portrait indeed, but that film seems to delight in showing our soldiers in a fairly unflattering light; just about all of the subjects are loud and/or obnoxious. My guess is that the "Gunner" filmmakers were trying to make the point that "hey, these soldiers don't take this war all that seriously, so why should we?" And while that's a pretty fair point to make, I found myself thinking "Don't we have any young soldiers who act like, y'know, professionals?"

That's one of the areas in which Occupation: Dreamland trumps Gunner Palace. They're both fascinating accounts of American soldiers contending with the war in Iraq, but there's a sense of propriety and maturity to the Dreamland soldiers that indicate a bit more objectivity on the directors' part.

You could probably combine Gunner Palace and Occupation: Dreamland into one lengthy project and not miss a beat; both movies cover the same material -- albeit with a mildly different approach. Occupation: Dreamland spends about 80 minutes with the 82nd Airborne as they contend with the hazards of a crater-strewn Falljua landscape. Equal parts on-the-streets footage and insightful interview segments, Occupation: Dreamland is the sort of film you should absolutely see before you head on over to the army enlistment office. The film may serve to bolster your desire to head overseas, or it might turn you off to patriotism altogether ... but at least you know you're hearing the straight scoop from the men and women who were there. (And in most cases, still are.)

Directors Garrett Scott and Ian Olds are smart enough to include soldiers from both sides of the political arena; some of the young men are entirely gung-ho and staunchly supportive of the war while others are reluctant and skeptical. Most of the opinions fall somewhere in the middle. But you never feel as if you're being force-fed any mindless pro-government propaganda or simplistic anti-war platitudes. You're visiting with a bunch of hard-working American troops, most of whom come off as decent and admirable young men and women. You might have a serious loathing for the people who started this war, but it's pretty tough not to admire the working stiffs.

To those who experience this war only through USA Today and Fox News, I'd recommend you find a way to see "Gunner Palace" AND "Occupation: Dreamland." They're both sobering and insightful snapshots of what's going down in Iraq, warts and all. "Gunner" is due for a national theatrical release in a few months, while "Dreamland" is presently making the festival circuit. I chose to spotlight this one because "Gunner" is getting all the press -- while "Dreamland" is easily just as good. If not better.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 03/25/05 08:42:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Atlanta Film Festival For more in the 2005 Atlanta Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/26/05 Phil Arseneault Finally, the truth is shown. 5 stars
10/01/05 Ken Ingersoll A powerful snapshot of the reality of our troops experiences on the ground 5 stars
9/21/05 Dan A nearly flawless film about the war in Iraq -- terrifyingly real. 4 stars
8/19/05 nora American soldiers and Iraqi people are real here and not a distant story. Thx Scott/Olds! 5 stars
8/15/05 issey Fair & Balanced as it should be 5 stars
4/20/05 jimmy d real empathy for the soliders and thier impossible task. and shows iraqi people hardships 5 stars
3/29/05 Bruno Stevens Brilliant impartial view of what the ugly war is all about. 5 stars
3/19/05 john eller rare perspective 5 stars
3/18/05 bp A rare, insightful look at the war from the POV of the people who are really fighting it 5 stars
3/17/05 Steve K Great, very informative 4 stars
3/17/05 Gabe Maxson Incredible and timely. Riveting filmmaking. 5 stars
3/17/05 Joseph I was there and this does not show what it was like. 1 stars
3/12/05 Jon Airheart not propaganda; just a solid, very interesting film 5 stars
2/08/05 82nd HH6 Awsome!! 5 stars
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  23-Sep-2005 (NR)
  DVD: 07-Mar-2006



Directed by
  Garrett Scott
  Ian Olds

Written by

  Matthew Bacik
  Chris Corcione
  Eric Forbes
  Patrick Napoli
  Thomas Turner

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