My Country, My Country

My Country, My Country


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

It's scary watching someone make tea against a background of gunfire or people walking the streets as warplanes thrum overhead. Action movie-makers know this and pepper their output with these sorts of incidents, but in Laura Poitras' powerful and moving film they are the real everyday deal for families in Iraq.

Charting the six-month run-up to the the Iraqi elections via the comings and goings of Dr Riyadh - a Suni doctor at a free clinic in Baghdad - a gruelling picture of strife is painted.

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Dr Riyadh hands out help, sympathy and, where necessary, cold hard cash, to his patients at the clinic, while in his spare time trying to convince his political party to participate in the forthcoming elections. Poitras also shoots footage of UN staff, American troops and Australian independent security contractors who are all trying to ensure the elections carry the stamp of authenticity with voters. And authenticity is the key here - it quickly becomes clear that simply holding elections is insufficient - they must be seen to be impartial to carry any weight at all.

You can't help but feel a mounting sense of dread as you watch the people try to cope with their country being occupied or with being occupiers. A US soldier breaks down with grief while giving a briefing, a nine-year-old boy shouts his name through a fence at Abu Ghraib jail where he is being held, and a father is seen sinking into despair after his son is kidnapped by the resistance movement and held to ransom.

Dr Riyadh laughs as he refers to the "fruits of democracy" and yet still encourages his family to vote for him, repeating his party's ballot card number like a mantra.

The footage of the family is powerful and moving, yet it is hard to take the footage of troops in quite the same spirit. After all, everyone is clearly aware that they are being filmed, so how accurate this portrayal is of the army's attitude is difficult to guage.

This, however, is a small and inevitable drawback which should in no way detract from Poitras' achievement, prompting you to consider whether things have changed since the government was elected and - although the situations are different - what is going on right now in Lebanon.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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The 2005 elections seen through the eyes of an ordinary Iraqi man.
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Chris ****

Director: Laura Poitras

Year: 2006

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: USA

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