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Isabel 'Ibby' Ellis Kurzon
Soon after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, a young and charismatic film student, Muthana Mohmed, stands in the rubble of the city's film school and explains to an American television audience that his dream of becoming a filmmaker has been destroyed - first by Saddam Hussein, then by American bombs. This brief, fortuitous appearance on MTV changes Muthana's life forever. Watching in the United States, actor/director Liev Schreiber stops channel surfing, utterly captivated. Feeling guilty about a war he opposed, Schreiber decides to extend to the unknown Iraqi the opportunity of a lifetime - to come to Prague to work on an American movie, Everything is Illuminated. On set, frustrated expectations complicate the relationship between Muthana and his American benefactors in what becomes a cross-cultural endeavor gone awry. Filmmaker Nina Davenport becomes increasingly entangled in the young Iraqi's life as his visa is about to expire and the threat of returning to Baghdad looms. Operation ... Written by
Sounds really interesting but has very little to it and gets dull on its way to fading away to nothing
Muthana Mohmed is a film student in Baghdad who was filmed in a segment for MTV where he shows viewers what life is like in the aftermath of the US invasion/liberation (delete according to your own politics). By chance filmmaker Liev Schreiber was in his New York flat ahead of directing his first film (Everything is Illuminated) in Prague and was watching MTV when this bit was on. Inspired by the young man, Schreber decides to invite him to work as an intern on the film. However Muthana finds himself a tad overwhelmed by the new world and perhaps doesn't perform as he should, leading him to longer term problems.
The potted summaries you get of this film suggest that something extreme happens when a young Iraqi film student is offered a life line by an American star and that this event or series of events will be enough to carry the film. The truth is that nothing of the sort really happens and instead nothing particularly comes from his experience on his first film although he does manage to become a runner on another. He is a bit lazy and perhaps resists the tasks he should be doing because he feels them below him but nothing amazing happens to him. What we then get is 90 minutes following him in particular as he tries to stay out of Iraq and, as the film career of the first half fades away, the film becomes more about him and director Davenport. I want to say that I got something from it a lesson of some sort but I didn't because it just seemed to become more and more petty and less interesting as it went on. The problem is that, without a wider theme or message, the subject is solely Muthana and he is not bad or good enough to be fascinating but rather just a bit irritating.
I'll let the messages boards argue the Hitler/Jesus lines but the truth is he is neither, which is a shame because someone who is a little bit annoying and self-defeating is not the most interesting subject for a film and, although I'm sure she tried to get something, Davenport ultimately ends up with nothing to really show for her time. This shows in the very poor way that links back to Iraq are used but thankfully someone had the sense to minimise these. There is a lot of praise for this film and certainly the two-line summary of the subject makes it sound fascinating but I can assure you that, at best, this documentary is OK but gets duller as it goes on to the point where it fades away with nothing of interest or value to leave the audience with other than an apologetic note from the filmmaker that is about her, not anyone else.
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