“Iraq in Fragments,” an Academy award-nominated documentary about the war-torn country, was shown Monday night by the Cal Poly group Students for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. It was an effort to raise awareness about an issue the club feels is currently being overlooked by the media. The student-run club, which was founded in 2007, focuses on “creating awareness, promoting peace and advocating justice in the Middle East,” according to their Web site.
The film is by American documentarian James Longley, who gained critical acclaim for his film “Gaza Strip” in 2002. For “Iraq in Fragments,” he was nominated for three awards at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006 prior to his nomination for the Best Documentary Feature at the 2007 Academy Awards.
Longley’s documentary is unique in that it has no narrator, no one asking questions and no planned interviews. Longley also funded the project himself. He spent two years documenting the three predominant religious factions in the country: the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Shiites. The movie was divided into three sections covering each of these groups.
History professor Manzar Foroojar, who is from Iran, said theLongley did a good job portraying the intricacy of Iraqi politics and religion, although she said it was a little long and that it might be hard for students who have no history of the situation to understand.
“It basically showed the complexity of the situation because (Americans) have a tendency to bunch all Iraqis together, either good or bad or Muslim or whatever,” she said. “It showed different factions, different ethnic groups, and how each one of them views the occupation differently.”
Foroojar promoted the show to the students from her HIST 214 class, political economy of Latin America and the Middle East, by offering two points of extra credit for attendance.
“If it encourages them to come and learn, why not?” she said. “They might not be able to understand what exactly happened, but at least they’ll understand that there’s much more happening than what’s seen on the news.”
The documentary closely follows characters in each of the three parts. The viewer sees many of the day-to-day activities of Iraqi citizens and the events surrounding them. The first-hand accounts by the Iraqis are used as a tool to give perspective to people outside the situation. Electrical engineering senior Haroun Idris, secretary of Students for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, felt the method was very effective method.
“When it’s narrated you get a spin or a bias, even from the most unbiased person,” Idris said. “Getting the information from the people themselves helps me understand what their true feeling is what’s really going on and why Iraq turned out to be like that.”
Idris introduced the film and gave a 10-minute synopsis beforehand to familiarize students with the Iraqi situation and so they would understand the film more clearly. He explained the three factions and discussed how Americans are viewed by each. The Sunnis don’t like Americans because they were the leading class before American intervention and now they have lost much of their wealth. The Shiites were excited for American intervention, but the prolonged war and the struggles that came with it have led them to resent American ‘occupation’. The Kurds see Americans as liberators because of their repression under Saddam Hussein but are still wary of potential occupation.
The Kurd and Sunni sections of the film concentrated on young boys and how they were affected by the war and occupation. Emmet Woods, environmental science senior, feels this is important for the future of not just the Middle East, but anywhere.
“The perspective from the young boys; growing up and not going to school, that’s important to see,” he said. “We always say children are the future. You have a situation like war and occupation, you’ve got to think what’s coming down the line.”
This movie is important because of the ongoing conflict in the area that is being overlooked by the media, Idris said. The movie is successful in portraying the continuing state of conflict in Iraq.
Students for Justice and Peace in the Middle East will show “Persepolis,” a film about Iran next Wednesday in the Science Building room B-05, at 6 p.m.