Over a period of 10 months after the fall of Saddam Hussein, photojournalists Steve Connors and Molly Bingham, determined to give voice to the other side of the Iraq War, interviewed eight resistance fighters. Filmmakers stress the disparate backgrounds of the insurgents, but since they are never filmed in clear focus or within the context of their everyday lives, the principal interview subjects tend to blur together. Docu, which opened Oct. 19th at Gotham’s Cinema Village, proves a welcome addition to the growing body of films on Iraq, but ultimately promises more than it delivers.
Despite differences in class, education and religious affiliation, the eight all basically tell the same story: They insist that nationalism, not sectarianism, lies at the root of their resistance. What would Americans do, one of them asks, if Iraqis rode down their streets in tanks, waving guns and intimidating men, women and children? Most consider their identity as an Iraqi inseparable from their identity as a Muslim; indeed, some of the more secular insurgents credit the American invasion and subsequent occupation for bringing them closer to Islam.
The resisters see the growing sectarian violence as being deliberately exacerbated by the Americans in an attempt to divide and conquer, even as American posters offer $2,500 rewards to any Iraqi willing to inform on his fellow citizens.
Unfortunately, in the attempt to preserve anonymity, the resistance fighters — designated by such sobriquets as the Teacher, the Warrior, the Imam, etc. — are shown in fragmented, impressionistic closeups (backs of heads, gesticulating hands), silhouetted in darkness or rendered out of focus in fuzzy medium shots, a technique that depersonalizes even though it seeks to humanize the resistance.
Simultaneously, the filmmakers use footage of ordinary Iraqis to accompany the insurgents’ voiceover accounts of how they planned their missions, giving a sinister cast to citizens’ workaday activities. Juxtaposition of Iraqis on their daily rounds with lurid or impassioned manifestos telegraphs mixed messages that seem completely unintentional.
Nevertheless, “Meeting Resistance” offers a rare glimpse into the hearts and minds of those who have dedicated themselves to ridding Iraq of its invaders, captured by intrepid reporters who risked their lives at a time when fragile trust was still possible.
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