I have been working my way through a whole pile of Documentaries lately and my most recent was Mike Shiley’s Inside Iraq The True Story. I am a huge documentary buff and have a great appreciation for filmmakers that take risks to tell a story that has not been told before. There have been plenty of documentaries on the war in Iraq both for and against but Mike Shileys is the first that I can say was unbiased, packed a powerful moral punch and shows the true face of Iraq from the side of the Iraqi people and the American troops who work there.
The war in Iraq is arguably the most important issue in the United States today. It’s legitimacy has polarized the United States – both supporters and protesters have rallied passionately to sway public opinion. Mike Shiley felt compelled to go to Iraq to see what was going on for himself. Shiley, who is not a professionally trained journalist, photographer, or filmmaker, managed to strike a deal with a local ABC-TV news station to act as a correspondent – a deal that would allow him access into the country.
Armed with a Sony VX2000 digital video camera, a home-made press pass, and a single phone number written on a piece of paper, Mike Shiley began a two month journey inside Iraq beginning in December of 2003. Interviewing both American and Iraqi soldiers, talking to local citizens, and putting himself in situations of great personal risk, Shiley captures footage that details the reality of life on the ground in Iraq.
Mike Shiley’s film resonated with me because of who he is, how he shot it and the clear skill in which he was able to portray a clear and unbiased story of Iraq that will make you think and hopefully reveal to you a different side to a story that you think you know. I am not a journalist or a ‘film critic’. Sure I have been on TV and talked about movies and I have written over 10,000 articles on my blog in the last 10 years but I dont masquerade as something I am not. Mike Shipley says he is not a Journalist and that may be true but he is a very talented documentarian who doesnt confuse documentary film making with story telling. He is not telling a story he is letting life unfold in his Iraq War Documentary Inside Iraq and unlike Michael Moore his personal views are for the most part separated from the film itself.
A lot of people are either in the pro-american camp or the pro-get-the-hell-out camp. There are very few camps that take a step back and look at the children, the mothers and the fathers who by no fault of their own are now victims of a war between two nations. Right or wrong the war in Iraq has brought pain and suffering two thousands of Iraqi’s and thousands of American familys. Mike Shileys Inside Iraq looks at the American Heros who were brave enough to suit up and go to Iraq to free a people and the Iraqi citizens who have now stepped up to help the Coalition rebuild their country. Highlights of bravery on both sides are obvious from the American Seargent who risks his life every day to build a relationship with local Iraqi citizens and to the newly minted Iraqi soldiers who are trying to protect their people while wearing armor that is not ballistic rated, pajamas and plastic helmets instead of kevlar. Inside Iraq gives you the whole picture and shows you the faces of both sides of this war.
Mike Shileys Inside Iraq shows you the ugly side of the Iraqi people and its insurgents, the ugly side of American laziness and racism towards Iraq’s people but it also highlights the strengths of the Iraqi people, and the efforts and risks that American Troops are taking to reach out and help the people they were sent to save. Inside Iraq is about as unbiased as you can get and educates you as it introduces you to a side of the Iraq War that is not ugly, but definitely not what you might expect. There are no villains in this documentary only victims. Victims of oppression, victims of their own racist stupidity and victims of violence on both the Iraqi and American side.
Mike Shiley’s film delivers a clear message of compassion and humanity and does it in an educational and completely unbiased format. He is not afraid to get in front of the camera and not afraid to ask the hard questions but he doesnt try to sway the conversation. What you see is what you get in direct conversations with local Iraqi’s and the American troops and Commanders in the country to help them. Easily one of the best war documentaries I have ever seen and on par with When We Fight when it comes to educating the masses on the true costs of war both financial and human.