Several days after Bush declared victory in the 2004 presidential elections, more than 10,000 U.S. troops launched an assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah. The assault killed thousands, displaced almost all of the city’s 300,000 residents and left. The gripping 30-minute documentary, Fallujah, on display in the 2006 Whitney Biennial, shows U.S. atrocities committed in the assault. The film got rave reviews from several publications, including the Times of London, which stated that Fallujah “is a sobering indictment of global democracy at gunpoint, and on its own makes the Biennial essential viewing.”
Fallujah begins with a chronicle of events leading up to the November 2004 assault: the April 2003 massacre by the United States of 15 Fallujans protesting the U.S. military’s takeover of a local school; four Blackwater mercenaries killed in March 2004; the April 2004 attack that failed to “secure” the city. Then, through moving firsthand accounts and cinema verité, the film provides a ground-level view of the effects of the November assault on the families who were unable to flee the city. Stories and images of maimed and injured children, as well as destroyed mosques, schools, and hospitals glaringly contradict Pentagon claims that there were no more civilians in Fallujah when the attack began.
Fallujah is a collaborative production: the peace group Code Pink commissioned Iraqi filmmaker Hamudi Jasim to send a team of videographers and investigative journalists to Fallujah to record the destruction and death inflicted by the U.S.-led assault. Jasim also interviewed dozens of the estimated 250,000 thousand Fallujah residents who fled, many of them landing in refugee camps on the outskirts of Fallujah and Baghdad. Using footage obtained from Code Pink and other sources, producers Brandon Jourdan and Jacquie Soohen edited a comprehensive story about what happened there.
The film is most compelling when people who suffered through the tragedy describe in their own words what they lived through. Fallujah includes stories of residents unable to obtain medical care for their injured children because aid personnel were barred entrance to the city, as well as accounts of people living in makeshift refugee camps lacking sufficient water, food and shelter.
“We have been here for three months,“ says one refugee in the film, a 65-year-old woman who sits beside a tent holding an infant. “Our children are sick, our men are gone, killed. Our country is destroyed. We are homeless now. They tell us to go back to Fallujah, now, but what Fallujah do we go back to? Our belongings were stolen and the houses were leveled… and the Americans are still there.“
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