Occupation: Dreamland (Garrett Scott and Ian Olds)
Ask anyone about the war in Iraq and more times than not you’ll get a response, either pro or con. Mothers, fathers, wives and husbands have vocalized their emotions, their beliefs. Politicians have thrown their prepared speeches across the televisions screens while drones applaud and the rest of us are appalled.
We see the waving flag but not the fighting soldiers as we have in previous war coverage. We only hear statistics of 2,031 soldiers killed (not to mention Iraqi citizens) since the war started, including the two Marine pilots who were killed Wednesday when their Super Cobra helicopter crashed near Ramadi in the Anbar province.
Well, we finally get to hear from the soldiers themselves in this very frank, bare bones documentary by Garrett Scott and Ian Olds. Occupation: Dreamland takes us back one year to the winter of 2004 when U.S. soldiers were deployed in the city of Falluja. I was surprised that the government would provide the directors with an all access pass, considering how people are fired for taking pictures of the flag adorned caskets returning home, and how the disabled men and woman are rarely given any coverage.
But they were, and the two took full advantage of their 24/7 living situation with the men of the Army’s 82nd Airborne.
During their off time in their makeshift quarters, we finally get to see how these guys live, bunkered up with girlie posters on the walls, a small screen television, and plenty of opinions to go around. It gets interesting to see Staff Sgt. Chris Corcione, who was previously a long-haired metalhead playing in a band, correct another soldier who was bad mouthing the president while the cameras were running. Corcione was once a rebel without a cause, and his family was shocked when he enlisted. Now he takes his job and devotion to country seriously, aside from his opinions on whether the war is right or wrong.
It’s easy to see how these men become angered with some of the Iraqi citizens who they feel are biting the hand that feeds. In various scenes you see the soldiers expressing their frustration at being there to help the people and then getting bombed by them in the process. At the same time the camera captures the aggravation of old and young Iraqi men alike, who just want to be able to walk down the street, having drinking water and electricity to live and run their businesses, but in all this time they are no further along in getting their city back on track. They don’t appreciate our force fed colonialism one bit.
When some of the soldiers tell their stories of how they came to be where they are, I think of the many Army commercials taunting others to do the same. Spc. Joseph Wood was only 21, an artist that seems to be surprised by the fact that he is actually in a war where he could potentially lose his life. All Wood wanted, along with so many others like him, was a chance at an education. He walked into the recruitment office with a “just looking” attitude, thinking that maybe he would do a couple of years at the most. Wood walked out with a four year enlistment. And those tactics are taken to the tents of Falluja as we see a number of soldiers who are forced to repeatedly listen to arguments at why they should reenlist. To paraphrase, the high ranking soldiers tell their men that they won’t be able to get jobs when they get back and they’ll have to live with their moms again. They tell them they have no future without the Army. Funny they don’t say these things in those commercials.
One soldier basically shrugged it off, stating that he didn’t have a problem living with his mom for six months while he looked for a new job. It was better than running the risk of dying. And another was completely annoyed, stating that he’s told them time and time again that he wouldn’t reenlist and they keep bringing him to these meetings to try to talk him into staying four more years.
Currently there are approximately 150 thousand men and women in Iraq. As hard as they are fighting, the victories are few and there seems to be no end in site. The bumper stickers, the protests, the Sunday morning discussions on the Meet the Press continue to play out day by day as does the fighting and the loss of life. But we’re so removed from everything that goes on there that its easy to get distracted by the most insignificant things, not realizing that we’re a country at war.
During the ‘60s and early ‘70s American’s got a better understanding of what was going on in the Vietnam War through television, but since our current administration likes to keep us ignorant and control the press as much as possible, we need become informed by documentaries like Occupation: Dreamland.
This movie is just a snippet of what is really taking place over there, but it is a candid look at the Iraq war and our soldiers fighting it – one that all of us should see no matter what your opinion may be.