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La Liga de Las Americas

Movie Commentary/Reviews: Fallujah April 2004 and Caught in the Crossfire. 

By Ricardo Urrutia, La Prensa Political Correspondent  

I usually don’t write movie reviews.  Sadly, journalism school taught me that movie reviews were reserved for the minds of professional critics.  As a result, I’m not writing this movie review according to any rules or standards dictated by textbooks or college professors.  I’m writing it in my own words, based on my experiences. 

I’m going to write to you about two documentaries I just witnessed.  The first one is titled Fallujah April 2004 and the other is called Caught in the Crossfire—both movies are about the city of Fallujah in Iraq. 

Ricardo Urrutia

I believe I’ll just share the thoughts they inspired rather than limit myself to a critique of the films. 

I should first warn you that if you get your hands on either of these movies you should be prepared to witness hell.  Just like the war in Iraq, the movies are intensely graphic and disturbing.  

Fallujah was attacked by U.S.-lead forces in April and November of 2004.  Shortly after the April attack, Knight-Ridder reported that the head of Fallujah’s hospital gave a death toll of about 600 for the city.  Of those 600, more than 300 of those dead were women and children. 

In November, the U.S. showed the world its true military strength by killing 4,000 to 6,000 people with bombs, tanks, and ground troops. 

However, I don’t want to distract you too much with death’s statistics.  Numbers can’t describe war the way mothers, fathers, and children can.  As Josef Stalin, who is no stranger to murder, said: “One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.”

Compañeros, Fallujah April 2004 and Caught in the Crossfire turned the city’s statistics into human faces.  The movies put a microphone up to the lips of the people who lost family to the fighting in Fallujah.  Both movies interview the people that were on the ground as U.S.-led forces bombarded the city for days. 

The movies follow people into the rubble they used to call home.  On several occasions the family members interviewed removed pieces of their relatives’ skin, hair, and dried blood from the rubble of where they spent their last terrifying moments. 

Neither movie is pleasant to watch.  However, the importance of movies like these cannot be stressed enough.  These are the types of movies that make war a reality.  Equally important, these are the types of movies that build anti-war movements and humanize the victims of occupation and war. 

The corporate media in the U.S. paid relatively little attention to Fallujah.  Although it acknowledged Fallujah’s heavy fighting, it had people like me believing that the attack was justified because Fallujah was an “Al-Qaeda stronghold.”

The Fallujans interviewed in the movie tell a different story. 

The filmmakers interview some of the people who were doing the actual fighting against the U.S.-led forces.  One of the men interviewed states that he was a school teacher fighting alongside his students to protect his family and his city from the U.S.  Another person interviewed commented on how Al-Qaeda did not have a presence in Fallujah and that those fighting were workers and others who normally lived as civilians.  One other person went as far as to challenge the U.S. military to show the world an Al-Qaeda member captured in Fallujah (surely, he argued, there must be one). 

I for one believe every word they say.  History has taught me not to allow an empire to define its enemy for me. 

You see, my parents are from El Salvador.  During the Reagan administration the U.S. justified its involvement in my country by saying that it was “protecting the Western Hemisphere from the spread of communism.” 

Because the 1980s were still part of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan had been gracious enough to define a communist for me.  According to Reagan, communists were violent revolutionaries bent on creating worldwide poverty. 

Reagan never mentioned that the communists were fighting alongside Catholics, campesinos, students, and workers.  He also never mentioned that they were all fighting for El Salvador’s right to self-determination.  Since then, I have a different understanding of what a communist is and no longer trust any U.S. president that defines his enemy for me

I strongly encourage anyone and everyone to see these two movies.  You need to see and hear Iraq through the eyes of the mothers, fathers, and children who have lost loved ones in the war.  To me, both movies are evidence that peace is unachievable under U.S. occupation. 

The filmmakers fulfill what I feel is the true role of the media.  Journalists are meant to serve the needs of the people by putting a microphone to the mouths of those who have been victimized.  In war, their mission is to keep everyday people like ourselves from becoming cold, meaningless statistics. 

The filmmakers of Fallujah April 2004 and Caught in the Crossfire accomplish that mission.


Fallujah: April 2004 is available through: http://www.progressivefilms.org/falluja.htm or by calling 510-644-2466.


Caught in the Crossfire is available through: http://conceptionmedia.net/projects/caughtinthecrossfire/ or by sending $24.95 (check/money order) to: ConceptionMedia. PO Box 2219, Santa Barbara, CA USA 93120.





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