LONDON — When Nick Broomfield’s Iraq docu-drama “Battle For Haditha” finally hits U.K. screens on Feb. 1, it will be the end of a three year process that has seen the helmer travel to the Arab world to meet with U.S. Marines and Iraqi survivors involved in the alleged massacre of an Iraqi family by U.S. troops posted in Haditha in 2005, as well as investing $1 million of his own money to ensure Western auds could see the events of that fateful day.
For Broomfield, who first learnt of the massacre in a Time magazine article in early 2006, the project has become the most personal of the seasoned helmer’s 35-year career that has included hot-potato docs “Biggie and Tupac,” “Kurt and Courtney” and “Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer.”
The helmer felt so strongly about the $3 million project (with $2 million coming from Brit hybrid pubcaster Channel 4), which lensed entirely in Jordan, 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, if amicable, differences over the film’s release strategy. Contender is now releasing the pic in the U.K.
“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,” says Broomfield. “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.” Some of these people include real-life marines Eliot Ruiz and Nathan De La Cruz, both of whom served in Iraq, who appear in prominent roles in the film. Broomfield also filled his cast with Iraqi refugees who had fled the violence in their beleaguered country and come to neighboring Iraq. “The Iraqi woman who leads the grieving in the scene towards the end had actually seen her own son cut down in pieces on her doorstep,” says Broomfield. “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 the glut of Iraq-related films released last year haven’t made much impact at the box office, remains of crucial importance for Broomfield. The helmer and sales agent Hanway Films has 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,” says 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.”