Documentaries rife during wartime

Nearly a third of the 15 docus short-listed for an Oscar nom are centered on Iraq

At least in one regard, the Bush administration is right to resist comparisons of the Iraq war to Vietnam: Back in the Vietnam era, there were far fewer war documentaries made.

That’s not to say there were no notable Vietnam docus — Peter Davis’ “Hearts and Minds” won an Oscar in 1975, five years after Emile de Antonio’s “In the Year of the Pig” received an Academy nom.

This year, however, nearly a third of the 15 docus short-listed for Oscar nomination are centered on Iraq — “The Ground Truth,” “Iraq in Fragments,” “My Country, My Country” and “War Tapes.”

The makers of these films see the documentary format as a way to convey a story that wasn’t close to being fully told by embedded journalists. “I felt that the toll the war was taking on our soldiers was not being reported or broadcast,” notes “Ground Truth” helmer Patricia Foulkrod.

Meanwhile, for “Iraq in Fragments” director James Longley, the removal of Saddam Hussein from power provided a tantalizing opportunity to reveal a culture that — until April 2003 — was as shut off from the world as Kim Jong-il’s North Korea. Suddenly, Longley recalls, “The Iraqi border hung open like a door off its hinges.”

The four aforementioned pics will compete with 11 others for Oscar’s five feature docu nominations, which will be announced Jan. 23. Listed below are profiles of this year’s short-listed docus.

Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?
Deliver Us From Evil
The Ground Truth
An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq in Fragments
Jesus Camp
Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple
Sisters In Law
Storm of Emotion
The Trials of Darryl Hunt
An Unreasonable Man
The War Tapes