Iraqi Short Films (2008) is a shocking collection of images from the combative front in Iraq. As I sit here attempting to come up with a well thought out thesis and critique to follow it up, all I can think about is the fact that this film, these images of explosions and armies and AK-47s and tanks and fear will stay in my head forever.
Filmmaker Mauro Andrizzi’s frighteningly effective juxtaposition of exploding tanks, laughing American soldiers, and Iraqi extremist recruitment videos leads to a sort of desperate confusion in determining who is the enemy and who is the “good guy.” Several times, a particularly violent explosion would leave me in near tears, hating whoever it was that could induce such senseless violence and death, only to realize that it was American soldiers sitting there laughing at the terrorist scumbags they’d just blown to hell.
Andrizzi does an excellent job in characterizing the Americans’ points of view regarding the Iraqi extremists. One image sticks out in particular, in which American snipers are shooting at terrorists in a far-away building. The Americans are yelling and laughing and high-fiving each other as they take down these men, saying things like “I have the best job in the world.” Images like this really make you wonder what they teach the soldiers at boot camp; when you hear radio conversations that include “we got those mother fuckers, sir,” surely it has nothing to do with racial tolerance and cultural understanding.
This film made me cry. It enraged me and it frustrated me and it shocked me and it broke my heart to the point that I had difficulty watching it—this is how I know it was a good film. When the first truck blew up, I was stunned to near paralysis. My incoherent and illegible notes remind me of how all of a sudden the violence and explosions increased exponentially, interspersed with clips of terrified American soldiers praying to a God they’ve never known to please please please just get them out of here. The clip of a young American soldier on his first mission watching the tank in front of him explode and yelling “Fuck this place! I want to go home!” and goofy clips of British soldiers dancing and lip-synching seem like they came from two completely different times and places, not from the same war.
An equally effective aspect of Iraqi Short Films is Andrizzi’s use of text in the film. He mixes in quotes from everyone from Dick Cheney to T.E. Lawrence, demonstrating through their words unnerving truths regarding society and government’s outlook on war. Quotes from 1956 seem as though they were written only last year; how terrifying that the criticisms of government, economy, and military still hold true today.
Everybody needs to see Iraqi Short Films. Whether or not you support this war, or any war, this film will make you shrink down into your chair in discomfort, only to sit you up straight again when you realize that this—all of this—needs to stop.