Once Upon a Time in Iraq review: A sensitively made film about the war – at last, we hear from those who went through it.
A new documentary series examines the realities of the Iraq War and life under Isis, with personal archive from civilians and soldiers from both sides of the conflict
, it has the simple aim of allowing first-hand accounts and reflections of the war to be heard. Some of it is conflicting, inevitably – but it does not purport to be another public inquiry, and it is all the better for that.The impressions we have of Iraqi civilians are mostly from the news footage of them, like extras in a movie, screaming in grief after yet another atrocity. This sensitively made documentary about Iraq’s agonies changes that. At last, we hear from those who went through it.
No doubt the stories will grow more upsetting to listen to as the series moves towards the civil war and the rise of the Islamic State. But this first instalment concerned the (relatively) happy time of the brutal but stable and liberal (by Middle East standards) dictatorship of
Saddam Hussein, and the first heady days of liberation from him. There was some surprising stuff. I didn’t know, for example, that there was once such a thing as an Iraqi heavy metal scene – that is outside of a WMD facility. Yet we see for ourselves grainy home video footage of a gig featuring the lead singer of Iraq’s first such band, Waleed Neysif, headbanging away to the Mesopotamian equivalent of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades”, but prudently dedicating the song to the glory of “our President Saddam”.
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