Eye For Film >> Movies >> Mosul (2019) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Not to be confused with the fiction feature of the same name that recently played Venice and Toronto film festivals, this is a documentary consideration of the liberation of the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State/Daesh. The fighting, in 2017, brought together an uneasy alliance of the government and militias from across the religious spectrum - and the film chiefly seeks to consider whether this setting aside of sectarian difference is the harbinger of a more lasting peace or merely a temporary ceasefire in the ongoing internecine conflicts between the Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Christians.
Many films about fighting in the region have been of an immersive, no-commentary nature, but in ex-CIA officer-turned-director David Gabriel's film, embedded Iraqi journalist Ali Maula acts as our guide and his musings on the situation in his homeland give this film an editorial and contextual anchor that will help viewers less familiar with the day-to-day socio-politics of Iraq.
Setting off from Baghdad, Maula travels north on a mission to speak to captured IS recruiter Nasser Issa but chatting to an assortment of militiamen and women and civilians along the way. The result is slickly edited by Christopher Campbell and shot with a good eye for a strong image by Hussein Alla, Ayhab Awaad, Khalid Al Bayatti, Riyadh Gheni and Anas Al Taiee - no small feat considering they periodically find themselves under sniper fire - the film is a pacy consideration of the issues.
The film is hampered somewhat by the way the action is amped up by the good but deliberately bombastic score from Photek - a nudge that feels unnecessary. Many people will also recoil at the inclusion of IS snuff footage here. It's one thing to be told about the many shootings and acts of torture meted out by the terror group but showing snippets of films of the victims - that presumably could be stumbled on by accident by a relative watching this film at a later date, for example - smacks of a lack of consideration for those who have lost their lives and their loved ones, and serves little purpose other than to shock. There should at least be some sort of content warning ahead of the start of the film.
Gabriel taps into much more interesting territory when he turns his attention away from the immediate violence of the situation to in-depth interviews, particularly those with Nasser and the female commander of a Popular Mobile Forces (PMF) group Um Hanadi. She likens the dangers of sectarianism to the level of threat posed by "chemical and nuclear weapons" and yet seems to have no plan for a more peaceful time herself - "My work (the fighting) is the best thing in my life". It's just one of the many contradictions that crop up in the film, as people talk of coming together at the same time as revealing their bias against certain groups, as one person puts it, "Revenge is such a reliable motivator". Issa espousing the joys of his extreme ideology is abhorrent, but perhaps more troubling for the future of Iraq is the conflict within each individual person - epitomised by Maula himself, who begins to doubt the testimony of those around him, even children.Reviewed on: 15 Sep 2019