Mission Accomplished: Langan in Iraq (2004)
Shortlisted for Rory Peck Awards, (2005). Shortlisted for IDA (International Documentary Awards) 2005.
Seven months after President Bush declared the war over in Iraq and "Mission Accomplished", British journalist and documentary filmmaker Sean Langan armed himself with a camera and set off to find out what life was really like in the newly occupied territory. He spent three months living in the notorious Sunni triangle, deftly moving between resistance fighters and the American troops. Traveling where few journalists dared to go and filming alone, Langan captures a rare grassroots view of the conflict still raging across Iraq. As well as interviews with civilians, Langan joins the U.S. -led coalition on patrol (even at times of attack) as well as instigating secret meetings with the insurgency fighters.
While sympathetic to the soldiers on the ground, the documentary highlights the massive mistakes the U.S. have made in Iraq. Apart from invading it in the first place, the decision to disband the army and police and to allow looting has backfired badly, with the Iraqi people blaming them for the terrible conditions they are living in. Entire cities, which had celebrated the fall of Saddam Hussein, are now virulently anti-American and large swathes of the country are out of U.S. control.
Mission Accomplished shows how U.S. counterinsurgency tactics in Iraq have helped turn an underground Sunni resistance into a popular uprising. Shot over three months in Baghdad and in the surrounding towns of Fallujha, Ramadi and Samara, the documentary features extraordinary access to members of the Iraqi resistance. The film also features interviews with U.S. soldiers on patrol in Ramadi and Fallujha, and the 28th Combat Surgical Hospital in Baghdad. Langan also tracks the growing resentment of Iraqis and includes interviews with families and ex-prisoners outside the now notorious Abu Ghraib prison, who make allegations of sexual torture months before the rest of the world took notice.
"I've grown to hate the locals," admits one U.S. soldier candidly. "You can't trust them so you've got to hate them."
© 2004 CBC
Sean Langan's first-hand account of life in Iraq, Mission Accomplished: Langan in Iraq, 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. - AA Gill, The Sunday Times