Review: Inside Iraq

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Mike Shiley just might be certifiably insane, for this 39 year-old private citizen from Portland, Oregon decided to venture over to Iraq all on his own. Armed only with a homemade press pass and a digital video camera, he headed overseas for one of the world’s most dangerous hotspots, especially for an American.

His goal was to paint a realistic picture of what life on the ground is like for the Coalition forces, insurgents and non-combatants. After slipping across the border in Amman, Jordan, Mike made his way all around the war-torn country, spending quality time not only in Baghdad, but also in the Sunni Triangle, the Kurdish region to the north, and the Shiite sector to the south.

With his phony credentials, he embeds with GIs, capturing them during unguarded moments, which ordinarily would have been censored by the Department of Defense. Therefore, we get to witness foul-mouthed enlisted men and women rambling on about everything from their contempt for the local people to the difficulty of find a private place to make love.

Later, he accompanies some soldiers on night patrol, observing them shooting anything that moves after the strictly-enforced 9 PM curfew. And he finds evidence of how tax dollars are being wasted at a U.S. dump overflowing with brand new, still shrink-wrapped radios, fans, food, munitions, automobile parts and countless other supplies.

Mike spends the bulk of his time among ordinary Iraqis, who treat such trash piles as gold. Whether rushing to the scene of a suicide bomb blast, interviewing Bush-loving Kurds, or worrying whether he can trust a Sunni cabbie still loyal to Saddam, he manages to keep the camera running, preserving priceless images in the process.

The movie’s most heartbreaking moment arrives during a visit to a shrine at the Al Amaria site where a bunker-busting bomb which incinerated 408 souls, all innocent civilians who had simply been seeking a safe refuge from the insanity. Because the material is presented in such an even-handed, apolitical fashion, Inside Iraq amounts to the most convincing cinematic case yet that unconditional peace ought to be an urgent imperative.

Excellent (4 stars). Unrated. Running time: 84 minutes. Studio: Passion River Films

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