These filmmakers should be given a lot of credit for going into Falluja and making this film.
Covers a lot of the same material that we can see in other documentary films about Iraq. Poor packaging.
Granted an all access pass to the Army's 82nd Airborne, filmmakers Garrett Scott and Ian Olds have put together a film that really brings us into the world of a soldiers life in the present day military. We see these people as they patrol the streets of Falluja, how they live during their downtime and essentially what it means to be in the military and this current war in particular. The narrative thread in this film is the fact that Falluja was a hub of insurgency and the soldiers singular mission is to gain control of this city. Some of the soldiers very much believe in this cause, while others are more ambivalent and there are also those who just want out of the service altogether.
Occupation: Dreamland is not the best documentary I have ever seen. Truthfully, I think this film was beaten to the punch by Gunner Palace. Still, this movie has it's merits as it does make an attempt to understand the soldiers, even if it's obvious by it's viewpoints that the war in Iraq is not something these filmmakers support.
Told with still photos and type on the screen we find out that some of the soldiers have gone to law school, some train other soldiers to be Rangers and others have stayed in the military. I really like the way this is done because we get a very nice thumbnail sketch of what these people have done in their lives since the shooting stopped. This update also has a tragicness to it simply because it is somewhat somber in it's tone.
Marine Assault Footage
This is the kind of footage that I am used to only seeing for seconds at a time on the nightly news. We see tanks on the street and we hear gunshots but what is the most interesting is how it is so continuous. I am used to seeing just a few moments of this kind of footage and then it cuts into a news story. It was very interesting seeing the assaults by US forces continue on and on.
With titles like "Night Raid" and "Captain's Briefing" there are four scenes in total to be watched here. While I think it's obvious why these scenes were cut, I like how the filmmakers didn't go overboard in what they chose to cram on this DVD. There seems to be just enough of everything to go around on these discs.
A commentary track is provided by filmmakers Garrett Scott and Ian Olds, soundman Jim Dawson and soldier Joseph Wood. This was actually something very interesting to listen to. They filmmakers discussed the film and their ideas for specific scenes and Dawson and Wood served as a sounding board. Also, I like how the filmmakers didn't try and speak for everyone and that ultimately makes this track have a well rounded feel to it.
Essay and Timeline
Christian Parenti, who after looking at his website I deduced is some sort of Iraq War/Terror knowledge bank, provides us with an essay on the US the incursion in Falluja (and Iraq overall). It is an interesting and informative read, regardless of your political stance to the left right or the middle. The "Timeline" chronicles the entire incursion from it's inception to it's final assault.
Widescreen - It doesn't say what kind widescreen this movie employs but the fact that Occupation: Dreamland was shot on video probably means that the widescreen was superimposed. In any case, I really like the way that DVD compression seems to bump up the video quality. Everything looks brighter and heightened and I think that works very well for this film.
5.1 Surround Sound. The sound on this DVD is really solid. I love how they were able to get inside the conversations and granted exclusive access to these soldiers. There is a "heat" that is on these men all the time. Even though they are involved in what this DVD box calls "low-intensity conflict," I feel that the crisp sounds of the audio really helped contribute to the feeling of impending doom around the corner for these soldiers.
A silhouetted solider in green night vision is the image that makes up this front cover. To be honest, I found this misleading because when I first looked at this cover I didn't know what it was. The back cover gives us a night shot of some soldiers on a raid, a bunch of critic's quotes, a description of the movie, a "Special Features"/Technical Specs listing and a cast list. Pretty simple packaging that I wish had a better cover.
I guess why I sort of have a hard time embracing this film is because I don't know that it does anything different than other documentaries about Iraq. In fact, as I stated above, my impression the whole time I was watching this film was that it didn't seem much different than Gunner Palace or something I could see on CNN.
However, despite all of this, I really can appreciate the comprehensiveness that these filmmakers have imparted on this DVD. While they may not cover the United States' "taking" of Falluja all by themselves, they do show us an intimate portrait of the war, while also trying to round it out with an essay and a timeline of our military being in the Iraqi city.
Occupation: Dreamland is certainly a film to be watched even if it feels a little familiar by now.
Occupation: Dreamland was released March 11, 2005.