Ever see a trailer for an upcoming film, get motivated to see it, spend money for a ticket, watch it and realize the commercial was nothing like the film? Even worse, did you find the marketers who made the trailer purposely fooled you?
The recent history of Haditha reads like a movie script complete with the twists and plot reversals typical of a thriller. For a small town, Haditha has a prominent profile, but like the movie trailers you see of upcoming attractions, the selected, tiny, edited flashes of the bigger picture can be totally misleading.
In 2008, “The Battle for Haditha” is slated for release. The British director, Nick Broomfield, is known for dramatizations of real-life events. His previous works include “Kurt and Courtney” and “Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer.”
According to the press release, the plot of the story is simple. A patriotic Iraqi tired of the crushing oppression of the American occupation places an IED, or improvised explosive device, that kills a young Marine. Stressed out Marines go on a rampage to revenge the death of their fallen brother in arms.
After the event, the Marines attempt a cover-up, according to the plot, but are discovered by a “young journalism student” who happens to live right next to the home where the massacre took place and is associated with the a human rights group. A gutsy journalist brings the whole massacre to light, and the world gets another lesson at how evil the military is.
Broomfield is getting plenty of free press for a film that is “artsy” and seems to have a low budget. In an article published in Time Out, Broomfield says he’ll use both American and Iraqi actors – mostly amateurs he has persuaded to “lend their lives to the film,” which sounds a lot like the actors aren’t going to get paid very much. To add to the raw emotion of the drama, Broomfield will film the 40-minute key scene in one long real time take.
This is the location, in Jordan, where director Nick Broomfield will shoot the “The Battle for Haditha.” Here you can see the director searching for a clue.
This is shot from downtown Haditha not far from where the real events occurred. As anyone can see, the two locations are practically identical!
No surprise who the villain will be: Marines. He told Time Out magazine, “Their (Marines’) standard operating procedure rules are so f—ing hard-core. If, for example, a house is described as ‘hostile,’ then you just kill everyone in the house. It doesn’t matter if it contains 2-year-olds or the elderly.”
Since there’s an investigation under way, Broomfield won’t use real names. He says he wants to be fair to the Marines; I say he doesn’t want to get sued. This true regisseur (regisseur is what you call a director who makes movies that only students attending film school will voluntarily sit through) views a greater cause from his humble masterpiece. A bigger picture, if you will.
“I think there have been lots of Hadithas, and there are lots of Hadithas every year.”
The screen goes black, violins play and the credits roll.
But this is where reality and entertainment part ways because there are so many details that would ruin the good vs. evil plot. Broomfield probably won’t tell you the previously mentioned “young journalism student” was actually a 46-year-old founder of a new “human rights group” that only had one other member. Or that the video of the “massacre” was handed over to the press four months after it was shot.
A high-drama film may not want to mention that the Time Out magazine writer, Tim McGirk, refused to testify during the Marines’ hearing, possibly because his testimony under oath could make him and his publication liable for legal action. Former Marine and Rep. John Murtha himself will have to answer directly to a judge for his public comments.
“They actually went into the houses and killed women and children,” the Pennsylvania congressman said. Murtha has yet to acknowledge that the majority of Marines have already been cleared of any wrongdoing.
Just to show how committed the director is to accuracy, Broomfield will shoot “The Battle for Haditha” in neighboring Jordan.
“We didn’t go to Haditha itself; it was too dangerous,” he explained.
Of course, the danger will not come from the Marines Broomfield will smear in his film, but more likely from the type of people who got shot during the alleged “massacre,” or as Broomfield calls them, the heroes of the story.
“I’m sure it happens on a lesser scale every single day,” Broomfield told a journalist. The British director may already see himself clutching an Oscar for best foreign film, even if only a handful of theaters show his work.
Surprisingly, the people of Haditha remember a different massacre than the man who has never actually visited the city. In 2005, terrorists assaulted a police station, led 20 police officers to a soccer field, placed them on their knees and shot each one in the back of the head.
Witnesses said the executioners removed the heads from the bodies and then kicked them around like soccer balls. The public killing of the officers were just the tip of the iceberg. Terrorists had previously killed the mayor, his son, a police chief and three members of his family. The script for this Haditha massacre will never be written, because for the artists who have a point to prove about truth and justice, fantasy is a lot more entertaining.
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Matt Sanchez, originally from California, is a New York City-based writer currently embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq. His work has appeared in the New York Post, National Review and the Weekly Standard.
A corporal in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and a student at Columbia University where he’s working on degree in American Studies, Sanchez says his mission in Iraq is “to report on the stories that matter the most, first-person accounts by the men and women on the ground.” His blog, Matt-Sanchez.com, chronicles his work.