Battle For Haditha

Nick Broomfield

BY Will SloanPublished Dec 23, 2008

How did one of the best films of the 2007 Toronto Film Festival slip through the cracks? Following a wave of Iraq-themed box office disasters, this critically acclaimed but star-free independent production didn't have a chance, which is a shame. Battle for Haditha is only the third scripted film by the great documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield (Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer and Biggie and Tupac) but this powerful, timely film rivals his best non-fiction work. Haditha is based on the true story of the November 2005 massacre in Haditha, Iraq, where an insurgent's roadside bomb killed one U.S. soldier and wounded another two. Overwhelmed by anger, the remaining soldiers allegedly killed some 24 Iraqis that day, including women and children. How timely is Battle for Haditha? So timely that when it premiered at TIFF the trial was still in process. I expected the film to deliver a fairly simple condemnation of the Iraq war but while Broomfield certainly doesn't excuse the soldiers' actions, he empathizes with all the characters involved, both American and Iraqi. Broomfield's direction is gritty and convincing; his documentary experience serves him well for the guerrilla-style massacre scenes, which are as harrowing as any of recent years - at times there is almost no discernible difference between Broomfield's staged scenes and the news footage on CNN. At the centre of the film is a stunning performance by Elliot Ruiz as the soldier who quickly comes to regret his actions. Ruiz has only two other acting credits - before turning to film he was a U.S. marine - but his performance is amazingly naturalistic. On his dry but illuminating commentary, Broomfield spends much of the time recounting the lingering anti-American sentiment prevalent in the Arab filming locations, as well as pointing out how much of the film was improvised.

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