Battle for Haditha
TORONTO -- After directing documentaries for the past quarter-century, Nick Broomfield ("Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer," "Kurt & Courtney," "Biggie and Tupac") has taken on his first dramatic narrative with "Battle for Haditha."
Portraying the events leading to the Nov. 19, 2005 massacre of 24 Iraqi noncombatants at the hands of U.S. Marines, the film retains many of the cinema verite qualities of Broomfield's previous works, lending it a powerful, devastating immediacy.
Part recreation, part speculation, formulated from hundreds of interviews, the docudrama has set out to put a personal face on the war in Iraq, and no matter the vantage point, that human cost on both sides is inexorably tragic.
One of the most affecting of the recent rash of similarly themed films, the British production should have no trouble courting North American distributors following its Toronto International Film Festival premiere.
Shot in Jordan, "Battle for Haditha" makes an effort to spend as much time with those young American soldiers (several of whom are played here by actual ex-Marines) as it does with the Iraqi families living in constant fear of terrorists, and a middle-aged man and another not much younger than those Marines, who would at first appear to be a father and son, but turn out to be insurgents.
After establishing the parallel day-to-day existence, Broomfield then ratchets up the tension as those insurgents patiently for a Marine convoy to pass over a roadside IED (Improvised Explosive Device).
When the moment arrives, one of the men activates the bomb with his cell phone, literally blowing one Marine apart and badly injuring two others.
Seeking vengeance and hopped up on a diet of caffeine and death metal, the surviving Marines retaliate by conducting a violent house-to-house search for the perpetrators.
By the time the smoke clears, two dozen Iraqis civilians, many of them women and children, are dead.
With its dialogue largely improvised by many who had seen extensive combat in Iraq, "Battle for Haditha" has a gripping authenticity lacking in other similarly themed dramas.
One of those individuals is Elliot Ruiz, a former U.S. Marine Corporal who had been told by doctors that he may never be able to walk unassisted again after badly damaging his leg during an insurgent attack in Tikrit.
Having since taking up acting, his performance, as the conflicted Cpl. Ramirez, lends the film a particular poignancy.
Back in the real world, the Haditha trials are about to get underway at Camp Pendleton, almost two full years after the incident.
BATTLE FOR HADITHA
Lafayette Film Ltd./Channel 4 UK
Director: Nick Broomfield
Writers: Nick Broomfield, Marc Hoeferlin, Anna Telford
Producer: Nick Broomfield
Executive producers: Peter Dale, Charles Finch
Director of photography: Mark Wolf
Production designer: David Bryan
Music: Nick Laid-Clowes
Co-producer: Anna Telford
Editors: Ash Jenkins, Stuart Gazzard
Cpl. Ramirez: Elliot Ruiz
Ahmad: Falah Flayeh
Hiba: Yasmine Hanani
Capt. Sampson: Andrew McClaren
Sgt. Ross: Eric Mehalacopoulos
Rashied: Duraid A Ghaieb
Jafar: Oliver Bytrus
Safa: Aya Abbas
Running time -- 93 minutes
No MPAA rating