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Iraq in Fragments, May 4

49th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Thursday, May 4, 2006
8:45 p.m. Iraq in Fragments
James Longley (U.S., 2005)

A film about Iraq for those who may be growing weary of mass media coverage about Iraq, James Longley's newest work is a powerful combination of art-house documentary and political provocation. Embedded for over two years in three different regions, Longley uses an intimate cinema verité style laced with poetic juxtapositions to create three fully realized and truly cinematic portraits of life in Iraq today, its conflicts and problems and its landscapes, sounds, and beauty. In the heart of Baghdad, eleven-year-old Mohammed Haithem works as a mechanic to support his family, dodging burning buildings and roadside rubble while becoming swept up in rising anti-American sentiment and Shia/Sunni conflicts. Further south, in the Shiite-controlled area near Najaf, a young commander of the Moqtada al-Sadr brigades (now one of the most powerful and infamous forces in the country) leads a religious sweep of the area, imposing religious law by as much force as necessary. For a father-and-son farming pair in the Kurdish north, however, life passes a bit more simply, with the rhythms of nature as its primary influence. Uniting these three tales through an aesthetic that pays as much attention to color, light, and landscape as it does to politics, Iraq in Fragments flavors its insights with a beauty rarely seen in political documentaries. Defying our preconceived notions of what war-ravaged countries should look like, Longley's painterly images are like nothing we have ever seen about Iraq, and his stories are like nothing we have ever heard.

— Iraq in Fragments

• Photographed by Longley. (94 mins)