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2 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Battleground: 21 Days on the Empire's Edge
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by Collin Souter

"Could I just trouble you for ONE MORE documentary about the war in Iraq?"
4 stars

(SCREENED AT THE 2004 CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL) By now, we have either seen or at least heard of about six to ten documentaries pertaining to President Bush, the War in Iraq, the media’s role in these issues or the evils of corporate America. It would be too easy to dismiss this phenomenon with “If you’ve seen one anti-Bush doc, you’ve seen them all,” even though they do begin to look pretty similar after a while. “Battleground,” which covers the war in Iraq from the civilian side, does not have so much as a right-or-wrong agenda as it does a desire to expose what the rest of the media will not.

In October, 2003, three weeks before the Islamic celebration of Ramadan, the Guerilla News Network sent two filmmakers to Iraq to cover the war from all sides of the conflict as resistance amongst the citizens toward the American occupation had increased. With Farhan al-Bayati—former protester of the Saddam Hussein regime—as the guide, GNN reports on the condition of Iraq from its war-weary citizens to the militants who must carry out their orders, from doctors dealing with pollutants to kids selling gasoline on the sidewalk. In Iraq, GNN finds a betrayed country in a state of reluctant transition.

The Guerilla News Network aims to inform the public about issues such as globalization, the environment and the War on Terror in ways that CNN, Fox News and 60 Minutes cannot. Known mainly for making “news videos” for MTV, “Battleground” marks their first foray into feature-length documentary territory.

Whereas Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” examined and criticized Bush’s agenda behind the war and Jehane Noujaim’s “Control Room” exposed the war from the point of view of Arab media outlet al-Jazeera, “Battleground” takes its cameras into the depths of the conflict where the bullets, bombs and pollution hit hardest. The movie finds Iraqis citizens unable to cope with the idea of a new way of life. Their country has been taken away from them with an empty promise of better times ahead.

Even American soldiers, who must do their best to feign optimism, can see that if there’s anything to gain from this invasion and occupation, nobody in this generation will reap the benefits. Everyone seems to agree that it will take decades to start over.

If you’re already against the war, “Battleground” won’t waste your time by preaching, so much as re-enlighten you with its perspective. If you’re for the war, the movie might cause you to ponder your stance without begging you to oust the President with your vote in November. I often wonder if pro-Bush voters even think to see these documentaries or know they exist (with the exception of Moore’s). I wonder if they have changed any minds. If nothing else, “Battleground” will give new perspective to both sides while adding weight to the arguments. I guess I should be thankful that I’m tired of these movies instead of wondering where they are.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Portions of this review can also be found in the 2004 Chicago International Film Festival guidebook, also written by Collin Souter.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 10/18/04 12:35:20
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/13/08 smallheathbhoy i think your a disgrace,these boys are fighting so morons like you can sit at home 5 stars
6/16/05 Holly Kennedy If you had a son over in Iraq during the war, you'd want to see every documentary you could 5 stars
10/22/04 David David The "News Media" how it should be, BattleGround...wonderful job! 5 stars
10/22/04 Tim Jansen So many "experts" have opinions on Iraq, Marshall let's locals do the talking for a change. 5 stars
10/22/04 Nicholas Nienaber Courageous filmmaking. Take this chance to see the war through Iraqi eyes 5 stars
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