A Long and Dirty Road


While Tuesday night might not have been the world premier of Mark Manning's confronting visual diary The Road to Fallujah - that took place last week at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City it didn't stop people from flooding into the Arlington screening. In a truly impressive display of hometown support for the local marine-diver-turned-documentarian, the film's inaugural Santa Barbara showing received the generous and appreciative reception it so richly deserved.

The film presents a carefully sculpted analysis of America's presence in Iraq through the events that surrounded the November 2004 assault on the ancient holy city of Fallujah. It is a kaleidoscope of images, stories, ideas, and analysis, that looks at the conflict from every possible angle. The Road to Fallujah might have been born from one man's response to the war in Iraq, but it incorporates the views of everyone from civilian Iraqis, through American military personnel, to peace leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Arun Gandhi.


Director Mark Manning introduces Road to Fallujah at the Arlington Theare on Tuesday night. Photograph by Brett Leigh Dicks.

One of the film's greatest strength is the unvested voice it gives to the Iraqi people. We encounter citizens both in exile and the confinement of their own towns. We experience the physical damage as well as the social discord. And we see the net result of their liberation from dictatorship with comes in the form of fingerprinting, retinal scans, and barcodes. It is a harsh reality and a difficult one to witness.

Manning decided to forgo the traditional post-screening question and answer session in favor of continuing with the dialogue with Iraq. A live video conference was set up whereby members of the audience could pose questions to two of Manning's Iraqi colleagues - including the film's Middle Eastern producer Rana Al-Aiouby. Al-Aiouby has not served as an interpreter and translator for western news agencies and was an intrigual part of this film, but she also serves in aiding humanitarian issues inside Iraq.


Manning orchestrates a live video conference with colleagues in the Middle East. Photograph by Brett Leigh Dicks.

We need to stop the suffering on both sides," responded Al-Aiouby when asked by an audience member about the effect of the change in American government. "We know very well that the Iraqis have suffered more than anyone else, but there are also many mothers on the American side who have lost their sons, who lost their daughters, and we need to stop this. And I think the American people need to put more pressure on their new administration."


Video conferencing on the Arlington screen with Middle Eastern producer Rana Al-Aiouby. Photograph by Brett Leigh Dicks.

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