F.I.L.M. of the Week (October 31, 2014)

31 10 2014

My Country My Country

Despite what the N.R.A. might tell you about the upcoming midterm elections (“your safety depends on it”) or even Democratic Super PACs (“if you want to prevent another Ferguson”), there is relatively little danger or risk in a single vote here in America.  A voter, or even a bloc of voters, sitting out will a fairly small impact on the direction of the country.

But democracy isn’t always so clean and simple, as shown by Laura Poitras’ documentary “My Country, My Country.”  Her camera follows various stories unfolding around the first democratic elections in Iraq, which took place in January 2005.  In an interesting see-saw, Poitras features not just the U.N. peacekeepers working to ensure valid and sefe elections but also Dr. Riyadh al-Adhadh, an Iraqi candidate from the Sunni minority.

Poitras’ film is my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” precisely because of the latter angle on the story.  She shows a genuine care and concern for life on the ground in Iraq, one that is certainly unmatched by any documentary on the Second Gulf War that I have seen.  Riyadh, his family, and the people he hopes to represent are important to Poitras in their own right as human beings – not simply as a means to critique the United States’ involvement in the region.

From her essentially journalistic vantage point, Poitras captures the growing pangs of a new Iraq with clarity and circumspection.  Riyadh is fervent in his desire to have a democracy that represents all of Iraq, which thus necessitates Sunni participation.  But all around him, he finds a reluctance from likeminded members of his community to engage in the election.  These conflicts have no easy resolution, and Poitras leads us on a thought-provoking journey towards the cut-off point of “My Country, My Country.”  She had to stop recording at some point.  But, as we know, the story of democracy in Iraq is still ongoing…



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