‘Locked in a world they can’t control’

Michael Stockinger

Long days, longer nights and the eventual disintegration of order.

An account of the occupation of Fallujah, Iraq, and the men who served there before order was lost, will come to campus with the presentation of the documentary “Occupation: Dreamland.”

The free screening will be shown at noon on Wednesday in the Redwood Room of the University Union. Ian Olds, the co-director of the documentary, will speak with the audience after the screening of the movie

“The main point of the movie is to expose people to the war on the ground and to present what the experience was really like,” Olds said in a telephone interview.

Fallujah, located near Baghdad, had not seen any conflict since the beginning of the war in Iraq. Bored Iraqi forces stationed right outside the city, had since given up their posts, integrating into Fallujah.

In its void, United States Forces stationed themselves in the unoccupied Iraqi military base called “Dreamland”, which angered the city’s citizens, who began to grow more vocal in their disapproval of the United States occupation and rebelled against United States imposed curfews and rules.

United States forces tried to maintain order, and after an incident where several of the city’s residents were killed by the United States military, relations between the peacekeepers and citizens were only strained more.

In December 2003, filmmakers Garrett Scott and Ian Olds decided to visit Iraq for two months in order to figure out what the war was about and what was going on.

“I was between projects and I was thinking about what to do next,” said Garrett Scott, co-director of “Occupation: Dreamland.”

Scott was interested in the events in Iraq after talking with journalists covering the war and learned how to get to and around the country without conflict.

“I was disturbed by the events in Iraq like everyone else,” Scott said. “There was all this weird coverage on television-footage that didn’t make sense, and I couldn’t draw any conclusions of what was happening.”

Scott decided to visit the country in August 2003 for 12 days and realized that shooting a documentary would be feasible and interesting.

“I thought we ought to follow the army around for a couple months instead of a week or two, and to do an hour and a half thing instead of a 45 second clip,” Scott said.

Coming back in December 2003, and enlisting fellow director, Ian Olds, Scott eventually settled in for six weeks with the Army’s 82nd Airborne who occupied Fallujah.

They recorded the daily life of soldiers, Fallujah citizens, and the relations between the two.

“There was a constant state of anxiety and fear there,” Olds said. “You could see the frustration and tension build.”

Scott said the focuses of the movie are the thoughts, beliefs, purpose and insides of infantrymen in the army.

“I wanted to know what was happening and what army life is like in Iraq,” Scott said.

“Occupation: Dreamland” provides an intimate portrait of the soldiers who occupied Fallujah.

“The most striking thing is the soldiers, who many believe are either robotic monsters or heroes, but are really just regular guys caught in a bad situation,” Olds said. “They have a depth of character and the movie shows that.”

As for both sides, Olds says there were many interactions with citizens in the streets, but mostly with old men who voiced their opinions on the occupation.

During their stay in Iraq, Scott and Olds were invited into houses for dinner, but later, when tensions began to tighten, the next time they were in someone’s house was when their gates were blown off.

“Everybody resented being occupied,” Olds said.

As for the action, Olds said that the directors didn’t encounter many battles, and when they did, they were random and sparse events that didn’t make much sense.

“We shot it just before the major battles occur,” Olds said. “It chronicles the time before all hell breaks loose.

“There were a couple of small firefights, roadside bombs and mortars at night, but there were many long periods of boredom that lasted days on end, then totally out of the blue there would be chaos.”

Make no mistake, this is no pro-war or anti-war movie, instead the documentary chooses to present both sides.

“These guys, their opinions on the war don’t really matter anymore because they’re locked in a world they cannot control,” Scott said.

Scott, who has been against the war since the beginning, explained that his stance had no effect on the documentary.

“It didn’t matter what I thought of the war, because I wasn’t going to alter the picture and make it negative,” Scott said. “If everything was soldiers having dinners with Iraqis and everybody throwing roses at each other in the street, my opinion would be different, but that’s not what the war is about.”

After their tour of duty, Scott and Olds headed back home for eight months of editing before the movie was finished.

“There was just so much amazing material,” Scott said. “The biggest risk was repetitive material because a lot of it was the same everyday stuff-slow and boring, but during these times people say or do funny things.”

The directors left before things got worse in Fallujah. In March 2004, four American contractors were pulled from a vehicle, mutilated, and burned, while United States forces tried to regain control of the city, which they finally succeeded in November 2004 after a series of assaults and casualties.

Scott said there is an emotional memory left on him.

“There is total frustration/depression for the whole population. There is no electricity and people are always freaking out,” Scott said. “It’s a terrible place and it’s very sad.”

More information can be found at the official Occupation: Dreamland Web site.

Michael Stockinger can be reached at [email protected]