Both original 90 minute and new 52 minute version available.
Seven months after war was declared over, journalist Sean Langan arrived in Iraq. He spent three months living in the notorious Sunni triangle, deftly moving between resistance fighters and the American troops. Travelling where few journalists dare to go and filming alone, the producer has captured a rare grassroots view of the war still raging across Iraq. (‘Riveting Stuff’ – UK Observer 8/8/04)
Brandishing knives and grenades, a mob of angry men jostle to denounce the American occupation. “The people of Ramadi have come out on the streets with one voice to fight this plague,” proclaims one man. “We don’t want the Americans in our country.” They all pledge allegiance to the resistance and vow to wage war on the occupiers. But with no soldiers in sight, Langan himself comes under suspicion. The crowd starts attacking him and there’s a danger he’ll be lynched.
Suddenly, someone pulls him into a shop for safety. As the mob bays for his blood, two armed men ask the crowd to let him through. They are clearly respected and a path clears to his car. Langan escapes to safety. Later, the irony of the situation dawns on him. “My life may have been saved by members of the resistance.” Earlier he’d interviewed anti-US fighters in Ramadi and it was probably they who came to his aid.
At a US military hospital in Baghdad, hundreds of wounded soldiers pass through every month. The roar of propellers in the background regularly heralds helicopters landing to deliver more wounded. “Back in the States, you hear about people dying but you don’t hear about the casualties. The casualties are the big eye opener,” states one doctor. Her colleague agrees. “I do believe we’re being misled.” Powerful sequences build a picture of a down-at-heart medical corps, under intense pressure.
A grainy video shows a team of fighters moving in to blow up a US position guarding an important bridge. They set the explosives and pray before the video depicts them detonating an explosion which killed American troops. The men reject the media depiction of them as blood thirsty terrorists and justify their actions. “If your country was occupied and you resisted, would that make you a troublemaker?” questions one. Amazingly we’ve already come to know the same Americans who die in the attack through earlier sequences filmed by the producer. Visiting the same US troop position afterwards the journalist finds one of his earlier interviewees a very sombre man with friends dead in the attack.
But the film also finds an irrelevant lighter side to the war. The US troops are young men and woman and the camera uniquely gets to see their more human side. On patrol in Fallujah, they joke that Iraq’s problems could be solved with more Macdonalds. “America never goes to war with a country that has a McDonalds”. In the midst of devastation a pretty young female soldier flirts with the camera as she discusses the latest bloodshed. Amidst the daily statistics Langan also brings to life the very real often simple soldiers who largely represent the US troops.
The soldiers’ black sense of humour may still be intact but the idealism and optimism of the early days has long gone, their interviews are sometimes shockingly frank. “I’ve grown to hate the locals,” admits one soldier candidly. “You can’t trust them so you’ve got to hate them”. By the end of the film there’s a real sense that the gulf between both sides is only growing. (Sean Langan)
|Making the film
|Review of 'Langan in Iraq' - The Sunday Times - 08/08/2004
The best history programme this week came to tables still steaming from the oven of current events. Sean Langan’s first-hand account of life in Iraq, Mission Accomplished: Langan in Iraq (Thursday, BBC4), was a brilliant, timely, brave and humane piece of first-person journalism. Everything that is wrong and reprehensible about Michael Moore is right and admirable about Sean Langan. There is a continuing war in newsrooms about the place of first-person journalism as opposed to third-person reporting. In an ideal and open world, you get both, and this was a great example of how first-hand accounts give you a sense of atmosphere and place that news film, with its lexicon of images that are by their nature staccato and repetitive, doesn’t. Langan in Iraq was broadcast at 10pm on BBC4. It seriously needs to be reshown on a terrestrial channel when the oldies are still awake.
|Filmography of Sean Langan
AUG: 2004. "Mission Accomplished: Langan in Iraq." 90 minute special for BBC4/BBC2.
2003. "Travels with a Gringo: Langan in Latin America." 3 x 60 minute series for Channel4. Langan travels the length of Latin America to look into the impact of globalisation.
2002. "Langan in Zimbabwe." 1 x 60 minutes BBC2/BBC4. Langan undercover in Zimbabwe investigates allegations of vote rigging and intimidation by Robert Mugabe.
2001. "Langan Behind the Lines." 5 x 40 minute series BBC2. Langan´s Bafta nominated series on the Middle East, includes the first two films on the Taliban regime in Afghanistan - Tea with the Taliban and Kabul Vice, plus episodes in Iraq, Iran and Gaza. Shortlisted for Grierson Award, UN One World Award and Bafta.
1998. "Nightmare in Paradise." 3 x 40 minutes BBC2. Langan goes to Kashmir in search of four western hostages and discovers an entire region in crisis.