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Nov. 2, 2004

The skewed Voices of Iraq

by Christopher Consolino, Page Editor
Following the trend of this year's politically oriented documentaries, Voices of Iraq explores the controversial issue of whether or not President Bush's invasion was successful in liberating and rebuilding Iraq. Directed and filmed by more than 2,000 Iraqi citizens supplied with 150 DV cameras, the footage documents events from the uprising in Fallujah to preparing for the January election in September 2004.

The film has an even balance between shots of the various Iraqi cities and interviews conducted by those with the cameras. The first several interviews conducted by Iraqis might fool the audience into thinking Voices of Iraq really is an unbiased and balanced documentary as Iraqis both curse and praise American troops. Some of the anti-American responses are gruesome, as one woman shows her small child's scars from being shot in the arm and stomach by an American soldier. Others include Iraqis just cursing America. However, soon after the beginning of the film, the shots that convey a negative reaction to American occupation disappear, and the interviewers all just happen to ask the same question: ''Is Iraq better now than under Saddam?''

A great deal of the documentary is devoted to Iraqis expressing their gratitude for being liberated from Saddam. The producers also include several sorts of smiling children yelling phrases such as ''Iraq very good'' and police officers repeating ''Bush good! Bush good!''

Executive producer Eric Manes and co-producers Martin Kunert and Archie Drury go about proving that the U.S. public is wrong to think that Iraqi citizens disapprove of the occupation. They show headlines from major publications and shots convening a completely different situation in the background, insinuating that The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and the Associated Press not only augmented the truth but lied about the situation in Iraq.

The producers also provide insight into the Saddam regime by including segments from his army’s recruiting videos, which show men and women having their arms removed, their tongues cut out and their heads chopped off. The short videos are supplemented by Iraqis telling their personal stories. One woman even recounts conditioning herself to be tortured by burning her hands with cigarettes while Saddam was in power.

Because the Iraqi citizens were not trained in using the cameras, the cinematography was somewhat unprofessional. The unstable camera shots do add to the urgent nature of the documentary, but the cameras, passed around throughout Iraq, never stay on a subject long enough to give real insight into the Iraqis’ lives.

Despite the occasional tangents of somewhat anti-American commentary, Voices of Iraq is simply a conservative editorial in disguise. The more than 400 hours of raw footage shot by the people of Iraq unfortunately was not edited down to 79 minutes by the people of Iraq. Throughout the film, the producers simply forgo direct commentary in favor of a more subtle approach, including conveniently pro-Bush/America material.

Voices of Iraq (79 minutes) is not rated but does contain blood, violence and strong emotional material and is playing exclusively at the E Street Landmark Cinema.

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  • william phelps (View Email) on November 4, 2004
    This review echoes the vibrations of the recent elections. Similar to the loosing parties approach to campaigning, this review of" Voices Of Iraq" fails to acknowledge what the film does portray, and focuses attention on what the viewer is not seeing , which I will point out, is pure speculation. If you want to keep the readers attention acknowledge the truth in what you do see, then insert your suspicions.
  • Tom (View Email) on November 5, 2004
    According to this republican home-movie, there are no Iraqi rebels (only Syrians and other jealous foreign fighters), there's hardly any death, violence, and destruction (like nothing got blown up!), and all the Iraqis except two (whose complaint seems to be there arn't enough troops)love Bush. They should call this "The Voices of Fantasyland."
  • John Montague (View Email) on November 5, 2004
    Thank you for your story. I saw this movie, and I was disgusted to find that Eric Manes comes straight from the bowels of Hollywood.
  • jeremy (View Email) on November 7, 2004
    Interesting to note is the timeline: There was footage from early September and they obviously had a goal to release the film in late October b4 the election (to help bush). 400 hours of footage watched straight for 24 hours every day is 16 days. How they spit this film out in late October when they still had footage from early September is beyond me. WOW!
  • Kevin laCava (View Email) on November 9, 2004
    I find it hard to believe Mr. Consolino and I saw the same movie. I have a feeling his expectations of an anti-war film were dashed as the movie unfolded. I can’t believe he is going to dismiss the content of the movie because it showed that in general the things were getting better as time progressed. I believe the message of the movie, rather than being for or against the war, served to humanize the Iraqi people. I felt more connected to the people as human beings, rather than some mythic backwards people. I think the review is more about putting forward the reviewer’s agenda than the Bush agenda.
  • D. Johansson (View Email) on November 10, 2004
    This is blatant propoganda. Who was it funded by? Much of it could have come straight out of President Bush's mouth. Are we supposed to believe that Iraqi citizens say things like "It is good to spread liberty in Iraq and beyond."???! This had to be funded by the Bush administration. At least Michael Moore takes credit for his films. This is a wolf in sheep's clothing.
  • Christopher Consolino (View Email) on November 10, 2004
    With regard to the film, we did see the same documentary but, as I stated in the review, I do not feel that the narrative remained on an Iraqi long enough to give real insight into their life. Although the film did humanize a limited amount of Iraqi people to some extent, I believe the reporting of our nations most prestigious media sources more accurate than a single documentary. Regardless, I view all material with the utmost objectivity and I personally feel that this work is biased. Regardless, thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my article. Your criticism is appreciated.
  • Susan Waddle (View Email) on November 12, 2004
    I watched this dvd with a friend who said he was not up to another opinionated overview of the war, evening news edited for our sensitivity, etc. that night, but I said well, I am into it cause I think it will be different and we will get real people talking about their real experiences rather than conjecture, etc. Well, that is sort of what we got, but this film was definitely edited with an agenda to show how great it is that America invaded Iraq.
    I did feel closer to the people and believed that what was being said was part of what the Iraqi people had to say which is the power of the film. It did pull me in, partially because of my expectations, but within 20 minutes, my friend and I were both starting to see what we really felt in the end - that this is a well crafted propganda film. It's power is in the amount of anti-American sentiment included, which was just enough to pull me in at first and think this would be a somewhat balanced expression.
    In the film, one Iraqi man declares what an incredibly diverse nation Iraq is, which was ironic in how blaringly undiverse the message was being shown. Another man states three or four things that are definitely better now, like passports that are free and available to citizens, but his positive statements are clearly part of a larger speech condemning the sitution the American invasion has brought about but all but the that is cut off and only the statements that support the porducer's clear agenda remain.
    The other powerful part of this film is that the fact that Saddam, his sons and their regime were horrible. And I would say nobody who did not support Bush's war was arguing for Saddam either. This film is smart in its subtlties. I was disturbed by the graphic scenes on Uday's home movies included here but ultimately as disturbed by the precision and deception behind this propoganda
  • coyote (View Email) on December 5, 2004
    Take a look into who was involved in makin gand promoting this will find PR firms that work for Bush and the various contractors in Iraq such as will find that the contact person is a former vice-chair of Young Republicans...what a pile of garbage
  • Dan Snyders (View Email) on December 29, 2004 at 11:06 AM
    Chris...appreciate the time you took to write the review on on Voices of Iraq. I had heard Laura Ingraham on her talk show talking with producer Eric Manes, so I googled on some of the negative comments so I have a good perspective on this when I see it. I am not surprised that a documentary has a point of view...I think its actually supposed to. Christopher, you see Voices of Iraq as simply a conservative editorial in disguise. That's fine with me, because it balances out the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and the Associated Press PLUS CBS News, which are often liberal editorial in disguise...most of their reporters are simply liberals and that "world view" naturally comes across. For example, the nonsense reported by the Times and CBS news that somehow Bush was responsible for the loss of hundreds of thousands of tons of conventional explosives...except the story turned out not to be true! Or the documents on Bush's national guard service that CBS (with the Times tagging along) eventually had to admit - like a cowering politician - were poorly done forgeries.

    Still, I will watch this documentary with the knowledge of your comments and understanding the point of view from which the producers are coming from. If only I could say the same thing about the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and the Associated Press.
  • Joel Watson (View Email) on January 30, 2005 at 3:07 AM
    I know Eric Manes and Martin Kunert personally and have no reason to believe that they are secretly tools of the Republican Party. As someone who has edited both legitimate documentaries and reality-based TV trash, I think it's safe to say that anyone who would spend the countless hours it takes to construct such a feature-length documentary for relatively little pay wants to convey the truth (as they see it) as clearly as possible. (This goes for MIchael Moore, too. He believe's what he's saying.) You cannot spend the time watching the 400 hours of footage (as the editors for this film probably did) or read the hundreds of pages of English transcripts and not develope a point of view on the material. I suspect that the reason this documentary is so heavily favors the pro-American, pro-Bush stance is because this is the most representative of the footage. If 97% of what the editor viewed took this position, then how responsible would it be for him or her to make the film 50% anti-American/anti-Bush. On the other hand, if an editor screened this footage and 97% of the subjects said that the U.S. war in Iraq was a horrible miscalculation, it would take a truly despicable person to present only the 3% that said otherwise.
    People really said these things, (if their mouths are on camera as the speak and uninterrupted by b-roll, they really said it) just like the heartbroken mother in Fahrenheit 911. Whatever may not be included in Voices of Iraq, the pain and joys of the Iraqis in the film are genuine, and thus, valuable.
  • jeremy (View Email) on February 1, 2005 at 4:02 PM
    Joel (below), I see your point, but even today, days after an iraqi election, U.S. Occupation IS OPPOSED by a majority of iraqis. you seem to be suggesting that this fact is, infact, otherwise (97% i think you suggested).
    I'm not saying that insurgents are supported. they are supported by a very very small minority. I'm simply suggesting that if a litte less than 1/2 of iraqis support the u.s. occupation, then why does almost all of the documentary show this minority?
  • Paul on January 4, 2007 at 9:29 AM
    Propaganda. That is all
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