Iraq in Fragments illuminates post-war Iraq in three acts, building a picture of a country pulled in different directions by religion and ethnicity. Filmed in verité style with no scripted narration, the film explores the lives of ordinary Iraqis to illustrate and give background to larger trends in Iraqi society. Written by
Although perhaps it would have had more impact seeing the film right when initially released, when the conflict in Iraq was near its peak of violence, the documentary still offers a highly unique look into the Sunni, Shia, and Kurd conflicts. This is the ultimate slice of life documentary that delves straight into the everyday lives of Iraqis. Its goal isn't to offer some kind captivating narrative, nor to offer any kind of political commentary. It moves at a slow, tranquil pace, loosely structured in three chapters. The filmmaker, James Longley, stays as detached and neutral as possible, yet his camera is always strikingly up close and intimate with his subjects. There is no narration, allowing the people being filmed to fully tell their stories. The craft on display comes from the editing, which is highly stylized -- however, save for a few moments where it was overly jerky, the editing is in my opinion masterful and gives the film such a unique feel and rhythm that I haven't found in any other documentary. This might be a stretch, but at times while watching I felt like this is the kind of documentary that Terrence Malick would make. It's that cinematic! Needless to say, I also thought it was visually stunning.
I imagine many will be turned off by Longley's technique here, but I think if you're in a mellow mood, the film can slowly take hold of you and let you become immersed in the setting and the people's lives. The film offers nothing more than a look into the struggling lives of Iraqi citizens, dealing with foreign occupiers, adjusting after years of oppression, and trying to survive in an intense civil/religious war among each other. We witness their every day lives, the mundane and constant struggle of it all. We listen in on their conversations and interactions. We see them in both happy and sad moments. Ones of despair and chaos. We see brutality and bloodshed. Some have called this film boring, but I found it a very unique, at times fascinating, and always intimate portrait of a great human struggle.
This is an essential film for people interested in the conflict or documentaries as an art-form.
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