Broomfield’s doc confronts massacre

Three-year effort brings 'Haditha' to theaters

When Nick Broomfield’s Iraq docu-drama “Battle for Haditha” finally hits U.K. screens on Feb. 1, it will be the culmination of a three-year process that saw the helmer travel to the Arab world to meet with U.S. Marines and Iraqi survivors of an alleged massacre of an Iraqi family by U.S. troops serving in Haditha in 2005.

Broomfield, who has invested $1 million of his own money in the project, first learned of the massacre in a Time magazine article in early 2006. The project has subsequently become the most personal in his 35-year career (“Biggie and Tupac,” “Kurt and Courtney,” “Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer”).

The helmer felt so strongly about the $3 million, Jordan-lensed film (with $2 million coming from Brit hybrid pubcaster Channel 4) that he put up another $80,000 of his own coin to buy the film back from its original U.K. distrib Metrodome after creative differences developed over the film’s release strategy. Contender is now releasing the pic in the U.K.

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“I put my own money in because I didn’t want to wait around for months having endless meetings. This was a film that needed to get out there quickly,” Broomfield said. “I’m very proud of this film and I have a loyalty to the people who put their heart and soul into it to get it as good a release as I can.”

The people he referred to include real-life Marines Eliot Ruiz and Nathan De La Cruz, who appear in prominent roles in the film. Broomfield also filled his cast with Iraqi refugees.

“The Iraqi woman who leads the grieving in the scene toward the end had actually seen her own son cut down in pieces on her doorstep,” Broomfield said. “The other women in that scene had all lost family members, while Eliot was very badly wounded while serving in Tikrit. Everyone in the film was directly affected in one way or another.”

Broomfield’s quest for authenticity has continued beyond the completion of the film with the news that De La Cruz has subsequently re-joined the Marines and is believed to be back in Iraq.

How the pic will play in the U.S., where a glut of Iraq-related films released last year largely sunk without making any impact at the box office, remains of crucial importance for Broomfield. The helmer and sales agent Hanway Films have already inked a DVD deal with Image Entertainment, and the negotiations for a theatrical release with an undisclosed distrib have reached an advanced stage.

“It’s very important for me that it’s seen by an American audience, especially in this year of the presidential elections,” said Broomfield. “This is one of the only films that has anything to say about the Iraqis. Their view is not on a debate, it’s not on the news, it’s not in the papers. This film tries to bring humanity and personalize the Iraqis. That’s why I can’t regret making it.”