Operation Filmmaker



"Operation Filmmaker" is a documentary that boasts the sort of plot and narrative twists that seem nearly contrived in their deliciousness.

Nina Davenport's portrait of what happens when a young Iraqi refugee is given a helping hand in the form of a job in a Hollywood movie begins as one story, only to fascinatingly meld into another.

The central figure in the film is young, charismatic and handsome Muthana Mohmed, a 25-year-old Baghdad film student featured in an MTV docu several years ago. One of the viewers happened to be Liev Schreiber, then preparing for his feature directorial debut, "Everything Is Illuminated."

Intrigued by the young man's story, Schreiber flew the young man to Prague to work as an assistant on the film, and also hired filmmaker Davenport to shoot a video docu chronicling Mohmed's experiences.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out as planned. Although initially effusive in his gratefulness, Mohmed soon began chafing at the indignities of his job, which included making vegan snacks and editing a gag reel.

Shirking his responsibilities and eventually alienating nearly everyone involved, Mohmed finds his benefactors shirking him even as he desperately tries to procure a visa to stay in the country. Eventually, he lands a job on the sci-film "Doom," where he charms its star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson into funding him a stint at a London film school.

Although there are times when the proceedings have a certain staged feel -- Mohmed seems to relish growing into his perceived role as a spoiled brat -- "Operation Filmmaker" emerges as an entertaining cautionary tale about the dangers of intemperate do-gooding. While Davenport's suggestion of a metaphor for the follies of the Iraq War seems a bit heavy-handed -- "I was hoping for a happy ending, now I'm just looking for an exit strategy," she declares at one point -- it's also not entirely inaccurate.

Production: Icarus Films. Director/Director of Photography: Nina Davenport. Producers: Nina Davenport, David Schisgall. Music: Sheldon Mirorwitz. Editors: Nina Davenport, Aaron Kuhn. No MPAA rating, 90 minutes.