Traces the life and death of José Antonio Gutierrez (1974?1980?-2003), the U.S. military's first fatality in the Iraq War: born in Guatemala, orphaned at nine, living on the streets and in an orphanage in Escuintla, reunited with his sister as a teen, traveling without papers to the U.S. in 1998, and enlisting as a "green card soldier." His sister, social workers, the orphanage director, a foster mother, and fellow Marines describe him. He died from friendly fire, March 21, 2003. The film uses contemporary footage to present his childhood and his arduous journey to the U.S. His enlistment in exchange for a green card and the promise of citizenship is, says the film, a common story. Written by
Jose Antonio Gutierrez was the first 'American' soldier killed in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. He was lionized as a war hero by the Marine Corps and by the American media (especially the gung-ho Wall Street Journal), but the truth was that he was killed by friendly fire and wasn't American at all. In fact, he was a Guatemalan immigrant who came to the United States illegally at the tender age of 14. His tragic tale is retold in this brutally frank German documentary, which traces his journey from his poverty stricken birthplace to a new land, where his status as a rootless working class male of a certain age made him easy pickings for military recruiters. If war truly is a force that gives us meaning, Exhibit A could be Jose Antonio Gutierrez, whose troubled life ended in an illegal war fought on behalf of a nation that constantly demonises immigrants whilst relying on them for cheap labour and cannon fodder. The film is not in the least bit sensational--it doesn't need to be--but feels a little long at 90 minutes.
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