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My Country, My Country

Film Four Stars

Since last year at the EIFF I've been quite surprised at the quality of documentaries, particularly those out of Iraq and how well they've shown life over there from all angles.

This year I saw two documentaries that caught my attention, one from Isreal and the other keeping focus, as it should be, on Iraq and their people.

Once again this is another top class film about the people of Iraq and showing how much they are just like you and me, people with the same fears and issues as we do, struggling to regain their country.

Although the film mainly follows Doctor Ridayh and his family as they live day to day in a war zone, it also looks at others involved in the Iraqi elections. From an Australian security team brought in to manage and protect a ballot district, to the US Army and their hands off approach, to normal people of Iraq, and of course Doctor Ridayh as he stands for local election.

What makes this documentary so strong is the personal connection with the family, and the well captured troubles of the Doctor. As he says at one point, people just keep coming to him with problems. It's through this connection you feel so much for them, you'll cry with them, smile with them, and even begin to understand them and their pride for their country.

The family discussions start off as ones we'll never have - or at least I hope we don't - talking of explosions, first hand accounts of attacks and killings. Later though they turn to making gentle fun of the Father's troubles, making jokes of the finger marking in the election and of the resistance coming to kill them. The way they display this humour and their affection for the family is universal and gives you that instant connection.

The film follows a similar journey to the family's. At first we are presented with the typical views of the war, the Iraqi people oppressed at the hands of the US who are shown with a degree of offhandedness, but there are moments to realise that they aren't against the Iraqi people and really are trying to work with them.

There's an early scene that shows just how shocking this relationship can be as we watch the Doctor and the rest of the Baghdad Council talk with detainees from the Abu Ghraib detention camp and speak with people held there for over a year with no trial, or children being held for months behind barbed wire fences.

So I had thought that this could turn into traditional fare of the US oppressors and the innocent Iraqi people, but as we are taken in with the Iraqi family we are also taken further into their problems and those of Iraq, further than the covering sheen that we see each day through the news.

Throughout the film there's a sense of nervousness and expectancy that continually builds. However the expected climax passes by and the film keeps going, with the Iraqi hope summed up in the despondency of the Doctor's words.

There are a few moments such as these, where the family's discussion delivers some extremely poignant messages. Another one is when the Doctor's Wife talks of how they have lost this Country of theirs, and it gives both the Doctor and the audience a moment of pause.

It's very well edited, and there's never a feeling of being shown something irrelevant or of wandering off in another direction.

An editing choice I really liked was when the film returned to the opening scenes later on. The same images now have an additional strength and meaning to them since we have travelled so far with the Doctor, his family, and the election.

Overall this is a very personal look at Iraq during a very troubled and pivotal time in its history. It may give a bleak look of the immediate future, but the view of the family gives us hope, affinity and much understanding.

As a personal note I really must ask you to stay, not only to see the closing titles, but also the end credits as these give us even more reason to understand and believe in these people. It may also serve as some thanks to those who helped to make this film.

This is another excellent documentary to come out of Iraq, and another strong message that we should all be seeing with open minds.

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