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Battleground: 21 Days on the Empire’s Edge

Last December, U.S.-based Guerilla News Network personnel spent three weeks on the frontlines of conflict between guerrilla forces and the American military in Iraq. The result, "Battleground," is more evenhanded than one might expect, but docu nonetheless strongly suggests the U.S. was wrong to create this "quagmire" and will find it exceedingly difficult to "win." Rough-hewn item probably won't travel as widely as "Voices of Iraq" or more recent generalized indictments of the Bush administration, but pic's apt for fests, public access, and other progressive-politic outlets.

Last December, U.S.-based Guerilla News Network personnel spent three weeks on the frontlines of conflict between guerrilla forces and the American military in Iraq. The result, “Battleground,” is more evenhanded than one might expect, but docu nonetheless strongly suggests the U.S. was wrong to create this “quagmire” and will find it exceedingly difficult to “win.” Rough-hewn item probably won’t travel as widely as “Voices of Iraq” or more recent generalized indictments of the Bush administration, but pic’s apt for fests, public access, and other progressive-politic outlets.

Avoiding official spokespersons, pic instead gets unvarnished input from Yank soldiers/officers, ordinary Iraq citizens, and occasional interested outsiders (notably an American journalist who’d reported for Al Jazeera). Many locals are glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein, but, when a group of men are straw-polled about whether they prefer American-style freedom or absolute Islamic law, latter wins unanimously. Indeed, pic’s largest emphasis is on lack of cultural sensitivity toward non-U.S. worldviews, which it suggests could doom this “reconstruction” (or occupation, as one American frankly calls it). “Democracy cannot come from outside,” an Iraqi intellectual cautions.

Battleground: 21 Days on the Empire's Edge

Production: An Oaklandish and Co.op presentation of a Guerilla News Network production. Produced by Lisa Hsu, Anthony Lappe. Executive producers, Jeff Hull, Ian Inaba, Bob Jason, Josh Shore. Directed by Stephen Marshall.

Crew: Camera (color, video), Leo Cullen, Marshall; editors, Cullen, Marshall; music, The Soulsavers. Reviewed at Rafael Film Center, San Rafael, Calif., Sept. 5, 2004. (In Mill Valley Film Festival.) Running time: 81 MIN.

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