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Originally published Friday, March 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM


Movie review

Into the minds of the insurgents in "Meeting Resistance"

Documentaries about Iraq may appear to be a glut on the market, but few of them have covered exactly the same territory. The Oscar-winning "Taxi to...

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3.5 stars

"Meeting Resistance," a documentary directed by Molly Bingham and Steve Connors. 84 minutes. Not rated; suitable for mature audiences. In Arabic with English subtitles. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday. The directors will hold a Q&A tonight.

Documentaries about Iraq may appear to be a glut on the market, but few of them have covered exactly the same territory.

The Oscar-winning "Taxi to the Dark Side" takes a very different approach from its fellow nominee, "No End in Sight." Equally unusual is Molly Bingham and Steve Connors' "Meeting Resistance," which explores the roots of the insurgency by interviewing the enemy.

Beginning in August 2003 and ending in May 2004, Bingham and Connors interviewed Iraqis (mostly from Baghdad's Adhamiya district) who had turned against the American-led coalition. Many of them were motivated by nationalism, some by religion, others by pride or vengeance or survivor's guilt. Ready to believe the worst of the occupation army, some of them suspect Americans were behind the bombing of mosques. One fighter hopes Americans keep coming so he can send more of them back in coffins. Hatred unites these witnesses, who began to pose a threat to the filmmakers by mid-2004, when Bingham and Connors left Iraq.

We see few of their faces; the filmmakers focus on their hands or they blur their features. For security reasons, real names are not used. They're identified as "The Teacher" or "The Warrior" or "The Wife," and their comments and body language usually express a point of view tied to those identities.

The parade of anonymous sources is frustrating at first. It also feeds suspicions about how many of the interviewees are authentic. Wouldn't it be possible to fake some of these nameless, faceless testimonies? This is not how most documentaries work. Could the interviewed Iraqis really loathe us that much?

It's the accumulation of details that ultimately allows the filmmakers to make their case. When a witness talks about the dire conditions at Abu Ghraib (months before the media exposed it) or a guerrilla presents his horrified view of the battle of Fallujah, the film seems undeniably genuine.

This is an unpleasant and sometimes obviously dated movie (much has changed since 2004), but a necessary one. Of all the Iraq documentaries that have been released since the war began five years ago, this is the one that most seriously addresses the nature of the insurgency.

And the filmmakers manage to do so without demonizing the Iraqis who choose to resist. If you were in their place, they ask implicitly — if your country was invaded, your family killed, your home wiped out — how would you react?

John Hartl:

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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