Sunday, September 11, 2011

"My Country, My Country" is a Family Story

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 55 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

My Country, My Country (2006)
Running time:  90 minutes (1 hour, 30 minutes)
PRODUCERS: Joceylin Glatzer and Laura Poitras
EDITORS: Erez Laufer and Laura Poitras
Academy Award nominee

DOCUMENTARY – Family, Politics, War

Starring: Dr. Riyadh & family, Peter Towndrow, and Edward Wong

In her Oscar-nominated documentary, My Country, My Country, filmmaker Laura Poitras provides an inside look at war-torn Iraq from the perspective of a Baghdad doctor and his family. The film follows the doctor from mid-summer 2004 to shortly after the January 30, 2005 elections.

Dr. Riyadh is a physician who serves the people of his community in the Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiya in the city of Baghdad. Working from the Adhamiya Free Medical Clinic, Riyadh is a healthcare provider, but he’s also an advocate for the people in many other areas of their lives. For instance, he helps some of his patients get much needed cash.

Dr. Riyadh, a Sunni, is a critic of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, but he supports the idea of democracy as a way to save Iraq. He runs for office during the tumultuous January 2005 elections as a candidate for the Baghdad Provincial Council representing the Iraqi Islamic Party. Poitras follows Riyadh as he campaigns for office, visits the notorious Abu Ghraib prison where he counsels prisoners (including a 9-year old boy), and consults with American military officials. Poitras also observes varied groups, interests, and parties involved with the buildup to the election including the U.S. military, an Australian private security contractor (OAM), and a New York Times reporter.

Laura Poitras’ camera is very revealing as she captures the weary Riyadh in the six months leading up to the election of the Transitional National Assembly. The Sunni doctor’s weariness is evident as he examines patients and engages his family in caustic debates and acerbic conversations – often accompanied by gunfire outside the family home or on TV. Although the election occurred just a little over two years ago, My Country, My Country isn’t dated because the Iraq War is ongoing and so are the repercussions of the January 2005 elections.

Although Poitras gives her viewers that you-are-there immediacy, the film seems too interior and insular. There are glimpses of the larger outside world, but much of the film is inside something – a doctor’s office, a home, an office, meeting hall, etc. My Country, My Country, which was broadcast as an episode of the television documentary series, P.O.V., is more about Riyadh’s dismay and malaise, and less about Iraq. Although her film is engaging, Poitras seems to have not noticed that both her camera and her narrative yearned to break free from Riyadh and see more of post-invasion Iraq. Still, My Country, My Country will remain an essential look at the personal cost of the war from the standpoint of an ordinary Iraqi man.

7 of 10

2007 Academy Awards: 1 nomination for “Best Documentary, Features” (Laura Poitras and Jocelyn Glatzer)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

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