Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Operation: Dreamland (2005)

Occupation: Dreamland opens with white credits on a black background.

Yet, there's nothing black and white about this documentary about American soldiers in Iraq. Directors Ian Olds and Garrett Scott were given full access to members of the 82nd Airborne during their deployment in Al-Falluja, city of mosques, in 2004.

We learn a lot during this film's brief 78-minute running time.

Many of the soldiers featured were misfits before they enlisted. There were brushes with the law, vain efforts to become a death metal musician, little education, low wage jobs and aimlessness about what direction their lives should take. Enlistment officers worked their magic on at least one new recruit who dropped by to ask some questions, had a two-year maximum enlistment goal in mind and signed on for four.

82nd Airborne's objectives are to maintain order and suppress resistance. Many of the soldiers question how effective they are on both counts. Some acknowledge they'd fight back if Iraqi troops showed up at the doors of their homes wanting to search the properties. It's hard to find hostiles who open fire and then slip away without being detected.

These troops also have some wise insights into the big picture. They question the role of oil in America's interest in Iraq. Soldiers note how the war turned Iraq, a country with some significant achievements in its history, into a "s---hole." Efforts to turn Iraq around will take years is another observation that discounts former President George W. Bush's stance on America's achievements. There's a brief argument about American federal politics that a leader isn't keen to have on film. "War is money," suggests one of the grunts. America, a soldier says, will always be in Iraq. "It's our country now." Maybe Dreamland doesn't just refer to the abandoned retreat where the American troops are based.

Iraqi citizens get some good digs in about their frustrations with the American troops. They don't want colonialism. "America can go to the moon," one man suggests. "We're fed up with guns," suggests another. They want jobs and dependable municipal services such as electricity. "Be careful of Falluja," is an early warning in the film.

Operation: Dreamland offers some occasional laughs too. One solider laments the death of Sonny Bono ("That was our last hope to get a f---ing hippie in office.")

The soldiers wonder what Americans would think if they had a better understanding of what was happening in Iraq. Watch Operation: Dreamland to learn more.

RATING: 8/10

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