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Kino Oko presents a postcard from Iraq

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Documentary film fans now have a new meeting point: Prague’s kino Oko. As part of a new documentary film cycle, the theatre will screen a unique film documentary each moth, which is not normally shown in theatres. “We want to attract viewers who have deeper interest in political, social, ecological and cultural issues around the world,” says spokeswoman Zuzana Klinková.

The first in the series will be a screening of a full-length documentary Iraqi Short Films by Argentinean director Mauro Andrizzi. Last autumn the film was named the best world film documentary at a documentary film festival in Jihlava. It will be screened at Oko starting this weekend until Wednesday.

The raw film is a composition of shorts filmed on mobile phones on amateur recorders by civilians, soldiers as well as members of the local resistance. Some of the captured moments were the final moments in the lives of those doing the filming. The depict training sessions and intense battles from both sides, moments of rest and moments of concentration before a battle is about to start. These fragments combine together to create a raw image of the Iraq war from the perspective of those directly involved. Unlike when watching TV news reports, the viewer here often finds himself in the very centre of battles. The varying quality of the amateur footage, the flaws, the out-of-focus shots and shaking footage filmed from moving vehicles make the film all the more chilling.

Iraqi insurgents use their low quality footage as propaganda, to recruit new fighters and as testimony to the effectiveness of their work. The soldiers are filming also, in many cases just to be able to show at home what they experienced in Iraq. The introduction of the film shows an idyllic grassy landscape where two US hummer eventually explode, and in the background those doing the filming cry Allah and “with God’s help, we did it. It seems that they’re all dead.” On the other side those filming also provide a commentary, not hiding their joy when they see their enemies fail. “See you in fucking hell,” yell the allied soldiers after hitting an enemy.

Music is also part of the document. Islamic songs, praising the heroism of those fighting against the United States, used as soundtracks to propaganda clips made by Iraqi insurgents, as well as shots of US soldiers made into video clips, where the solders pose and prance around with in boxer shorts, holding machine guns. What all these clips have in common is that they depict the real war: the horrific situations, where fighters on both sides find themselves in the midst of explosions, as well as the long periods of waiting before and after battles. Iraqi Short Films is like a thriller, which is all the more powerful because it doesn’t take any sides and instead focuses on bringing a testimony about the war and the human condition.

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