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FALL SNEAKS | THEMES: IRAQ

War's impact: An issue with many dimensions

September 10, 2006|Mark Olsen | Special to The Times

THE recent rise in the popularity of documentaries means that there is already a small syllabus of films that deal with the ongoing conflict in Iraq. It should go without saying that these films can be of interest to anyone, regardless of political stripe, simply because they strive to provide fuller perspective on a situation that will likely be with us for some time to come.

An unabashedly partisan look at soldiers returning home with physical and psychological disabilities, "The Ground Truth," opening Friday, explores the way men and women in uniform are recruited, trained, deployed and, with luck, sent home. With anger and sympathy, it slices through the rhetoric of "support our troops" as director Patricia Foulkrod provides an unusually up-close look at the impact of the war on the soldiers themselves and their families.

"The War Tapes," opening Oct. 13, takes a slightly different approach to getting the soldier's point of view. Filmmaker Deborah Scranton provided digital video cameras to three servicemen as they were being deployed to Iraq. Their footage provides the substance of the film, which is at once harrowing and illuminating, giving insight into what for many is the unknowable world of actual combat.

Adding another perspective to the kaleidoscope is Laura Poitras' "My Country, My Country," opening Friday, which attempts to give some sense of the Iraqi take on the situation by following a Baghdad physician who is also a candidate in the Iraqi elections of January 2005.

"Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing," expected in October, deals with the home front. Filmmaker Barbara Kopple, with co-director Cecilia Peck, turns her camera on the music group the Dixie Chicks, chronicling their life in the crossfire after the anti-Bush remarks by singer Natalie Maines at a 2003 concert in London.

Lest it seem that the era of Iraq has produced only films of tumult and trauma, there is also the fiction feature "The Marine," opening Oct. 13, in which wrestler John Cena portrays a solider returning from Iraq only to have his wife kidnapped by a rampaging criminal.

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