On January 31, French television showed a new documentary, unlike other films. Four television episodes “Iraq: Destroying a Nation” Irak destruction d’une Nation, a French production signed by director Jean-Pierre Canet, which achieved high views, exceeding two million viewers, and a press, media and diplomatic interest, especially since it was previously broadcast with a great anticipation and advertisement.
The film is mostly political, and its material is drawn from very diverse research sources. The film based its story based on various interviews of major political figures and actors in contemporary Iraqi history, with a heterogeneous mixture of carefully selected Iraqis, in addition to its use of documents that were until recently considered highly classified. Its output is considered to be the scale of the disaster.
Four episodes documented events that ravaged Iraq and changed the face of the world. The film is more like a tragic tale, or a drama, but rather a modern tragedy of everyday reality and its language, created by the French director Jean-Pierre Canet. In an interview with him on France 24 for French speakers, the director, who spent three years directing his film, said: “I wanted the film to explain how ISIS got to where it was before? And how did the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 help produce this terrorist organization, the most extreme and bloodiest in the history of extremist Islamic movements? The French themselves watched the episodes of the film with great, unexpected interest, due to the psychological consequences of the Corona virus pandemic and the quarantine, in addition to the forty years of contemporary Iraq’s history, which obscured many events, and the western, but even Arab, viewer no longer cared about this sad past. The film removed the accumulated ashes of years, and ignited the embers of painful memories, especially among Iraqis who witnessed the tragedies of that stage day by day and hour by hour. He lit again the pains that were forgotten and left them in the nest of his treasuries.
The film’s introductory sentence says, “The first terrorist decided to blow himself up in the French football stadium, in the match that brought together the French and German team on November 13, 2013, and he was an Iraqi, and he was Omar al-Sabawi.” Here, the commentator wonders about the reasons that led this 18-year-old youth and many of his countrymen to be victims of ISIS terrorist gangs? Such a narrative leads us to another fact that the film does not explicitly reveal, which is: that the terrorism that struck France has American and European causes, and we must follow the events of the film to find out who is responsible.
What is noteworthy is the effort exerted in cinematic investigation of events and facts, according to witnesses and stakeholders, and from various political, military and intelligence sources. Iraqi and international personalities from that era over a period of forty years. Testimonies included figures such as French Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Chauvinmo (1988-1991), Alain Chauoy, French intelligence agency agent in Iraq, Roland Dima, French Foreign Minister (1986-1984), Lieutenant Colonel, US Air Force intelligence officer Rick Francona, and US Defense Undersecretary. Douglas Feith, Captain Robert Filo, who trained Iraqi pilots on the French Super-Etendard bombers, Iraqi Maslawi dealer Muhammad Zaki, Miqdad al-Sabawi, sheikh of the Sabawiyyin clan, and Muhammad Makiya, an exiled Iraqi writer, as well as former employees of the United Nations coordinators in Iraq.
Tracing the thread of interviews for all of these people of all walks of life, and with their testimonies or confessions, leads us to one truth: How did the destruction of a nation and starvation of a people with great professionalism take place as punishment for the dictator Saddam Hussein’s survival on the hierarchy of power? In a statement, the director states that the Iraqis paid the price for the madness of their “dictator” in the Gulf War that carried Iraq into the Middle Ages.
Whatever we say about the film, there remains a question that must be asked, which is, how did the director gain access to the secret caches, and extract those documents that remained for a long time kept in complete secrecy?
Like a Christmas tree:
The film also sorted an important space for the media’s role in the programmed policy of destruction, according to a sentence by a pilot who participated in the air strikes, in which he says, “The bombing is the largest fireworks operation in all I have seen in my life.” Another French broadcaster adds to this comment that went beyond the pain and suffering of Iraqis. As a result of the bombing, saying, “Baghdad was cheerful as a Christmas tree”! As for the general who commanded the air strikes on Iraq, he admits that “the media coverage was perfect.” Whether it is genocide according to the testimony of a United Nations employee or barbarism, as John Pierre Chauvinmo says, the film exposes the forms of systematic lies and betrayals of major countries, in their full involvement in the largest modern genocide against a peaceful people, thanks to the elaborate employment of movie interviews, and dive into files Pentagon Library Documents in Washington. French director and critic Francois Truffaut says in his talk about director Orson Welles: “The sources of the biographies are more important than the autobiographies themselves.” The process of investigating and extracting rich sources in documentary filmmaking is a central point from which the film “Iraq – Destroying a Nation” benefited and employed it brilliantly.
A new French policy:
This type of cinematic film is political, serving goals related to the policies of major countries that hold the keys to the game, and French actors may have contributed indirectly to supporting it, promoting new trends in French policy in the Middle East, so it is in France’s interest to distinguish itself from American policy and distance itself. The current consequences of the Gulf War and the economic blockade against Iraq.
Whatever we say about the film, there remains a question that must be asked, which is, how did the director gain access to the secret caches, and extract those documents that remained for a long time kept in complete secrecy? Perhaps the answer to this question lies simply in the literalism of John Pierre, a well-known French journalist and expert in Middle East issues, and thus he benefited from his journalistic experience in finding facts and reaching dark places, in addition to supporting one of the most important French channels for him, Channel 5, what He helped the director to dig up those documents, which had long remained secretly kept in sealed safes, and to conduct interviews. We believe, whatever the methods of access to information (which is essential in any investigative film), the film falls under the description of the propaganda films, which flourished in the 1930s. By means of press extrapolations, the film was able to achieve an evaluation view of history, aiming at re-evaluating American policy in Iraq, in the Saddam era, and since the beginning of the American-Iraqi conflict in the late 1970s, which helped change the previous stereotype of the European viewer. The characteristics of the documentary film lie in its ability to go far in reality and reveal the facts in a simple language, without visual effects or adornment. The documentary film has its own cinematic aesthetics, which are different from the dramatic film, and accordingly, when the film story comes true and reveals the secrets of reality and its language, it carries elements Aesthetic, no Hollywood technology has it, no matter how great it is.
This is a remarkable observation for Middle Eastern filmmakers, who are running behind modern visual effects, looking for exciting elements and techniques that give their films the elements of excitement that kill the subject of the film, rather than granting it a transit visa to the viewer’s heart.
Walter Rotman’s film “Berlin Symphony” (1927) was nothing but visual notes played by scenes from Berlin’s daily life, without visual effects, nor was Robert Flaherty’s film “Nanuk of the North” (1922) only simple images from the fictional reality of Siberia, and so it remained. These two films and other reality films produced by cinema in its beginnings are eternal to this day, because honesty in documentaries is considered the compass that leads filmmakers to the viewer’s heart.
The film “destroying a nation” on the critical level prompts us to pose the question of shape and its importance in documentary films, a topic for which cinematic studies still devote many pages, as the topic constitutes an essential element of the construction of the documentary film (i.e. the subject = form) in importance, And even compete with him in the foreground, because of the human drama it contains that the director can employ in order to create the elements of excitement and shock the viewer. With regard to the film “Iraq – Destroying a Nation”, the subject achieved its goal and came as a highly important document and as an impressive artistic image. Here we say to those looking for the sources of beauty in documentaries that no beauty surpasses the beauty of the truth.
Iraqi film director