If you thought Disneyland was fun, take a trip to this complete simulated Iraqi village in California, and learn how the other half live. And die
This film about an army training center in the desert in California will elicit the same response from an overwhelming majority of those who see it: “Gee, I never thought of that.” Yes, you probably never thought the US Army had recreated an entire Iraqi village in the USA that is used for the sole purpose of training troops to deal with the war in Iraq. After you see this film, you will know one exists, but you still won’t care. After all is said and done, what goes on there is actually fairly dull.
The village employs a dozen or so real, actual persons of Arabic descent. They live a pretty funny life, in fact, hanging out in this Disneyland Muppet Ville version of the Middle East and babbling in Iraqi lingo to the recruits who are trying to win their hearts and minds. There is definitely an undercurrent of humor here. Is this a comedy?
If so, it is not really that funny. At best it is a comedy in the same vein as those civil defense “duck and cover” films that show how Americans were going to survive a nuclear holocaust by climbing under their desks. His film shows the same thing about the war in Iraq. The message to the new recruits is that if you play your cards right, you can survive the war. Or, from another perspective, there is a way to come out of this war smiling.
The fact is, stopping the bleeding on a very high tech manikin or patching the fake blown out eyeball of another trooper is not very realistic training for getting one’s head removed by a road side bomb. Nor is it very god training for watching a friend get his head removed by a road side bomb. Perhaps better training for the war in Iraq would be to actually watch some one get killed. Say, shot your daughter, or something. That would put in a more appropriate frame of mind.
While watching military films the critical viewer is always asking, “What is the military getting from this?” After all, they have to be getting something to justify their cooperation. Presumably, the military received some positive PR from this film from not only the fact that they are training recruits to deal with the war, but also by preserving the myth that US troops are actually dealing with Iraqis in a sensitive, empathetic manner. Which, by and large, they are not.
Given those criticisms, that the entire premise of the film is fake, there are some good action scenes. They actually have real machine guns with very realistic blank cartridges and pretty funny simulated RPGs and such. This film kept directors Tony Gerber and Jesse Moss busy, especially Moss who was also the cinematographer. The Middle Eastern American female participants are very pretty and we actually get t see them dance. He wedding in the desert is surreal.
Beyond that, it is not very clear what one is supposed to take away from this film. Don’t get mad at armed Islamics? When arguing with your neighbor about the fence line, take fruit? Never turn your back on a fake flying eyeball?
In the end, war is hell, and no soldier ever understands it until he is in it. Then it’s too late. Duck and cover!
Directed by: Tony Gerber and Jesse Moss
Release: July 9, 2008
MPAA: Not Rated
Runtime: 85 minutes