Last weekend, Louisville audiences got to see a new documentary about the Iraq war that takes a controversial approach: It interviews Iraqis who are fighting American soldiers. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer went to see the film and the reactions.
Ticket sales were brisk as audiences packed Baxter Avenue Theatres for the new documentary “Meeting Resistance.” Some came because they knew this film was co-directed by Louisville native Molly Bingham, who worked on this project with fellow photojournalist Steve Connors. Others came to see if they could learn something new about the war in Iraq from this decidedly different documentary about the conflict.
This documentary is not an assortment of interviews with Americans and politicians providing the political bent of Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” or activist Robert Greenwald’s “Iraq Uncovered.” Nor is this a telling of the stories by soldiers serving in Iraq.
“Meeting Resistance” is different because in it these filmmakers went behind enemy lines. In 2003 and early 2004 they went to Baghdad’s Adhamiya neighborhood and interviewed Iraqis who say they are insurgents. In the film, the Iraqis’ faces are obscured and there are many fleeting images of their hands. They are holding coffee cups, turning cigarettes between their fingers and sometimes restlessly stroking their garments.
Since Bingham and Connors finished the film early this year, they have shown it in selected cities nationwide and held discussions. They have shown it to students at West Point and to soldiers in Baghdad. They say both groups told them it provided insight into the Iraqi culture.
That same sentiment is prevalent in the theater this evening. Dennis Brennan, a retired overseas civil servant for the United States Agency for International Development, is among them. He found fault with the documentary.
“In particular, I was concerned that the representation of the enormous violence that is visited on the Iraqis is not really portrayed very much and that the role and the fact that this is pretty much a Sunni neighborhood is not given the kind of attention that it needed to put it in context,” he says.
For other viewers, the graphic images were jarring. One was of a dead child and another was the charred corpse of an American being dragged through the street in Fallujah in 2004. Lane Adams says despite these scenes the film gave her a better understanding of some Iraqis.
“The dedication of the people to jihad, you know, to defend and protect their country and the religious aspect of it,” he says.
It made Bellarmine University professor Adam Renner think about the role of this film in relation to what mainstream media is reporting.
“At least it provides another perspective that we need to consider when we are talking about this issue,” he says. “Because as many different lenses as we can look through to try to understand it I think just helps us to be better informed. I don’t know if we can know the truth about what is happening, but as many little truths as we can find out — the better.
Bingham and Connors are showing the film this month in other cities, including Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. DVD of the documentary are available at Ray’s Monkey House on Bardstown Road.