In "Occupation: Dreamland," directors Garrett Scott and Ian Olds point their cameras at U.S. soldiers as they patrol the streets of Fallujah, keeping them safe from terrorists, insurgents and whomever else they think they're supposed to keep a look out for.
Just like "Gunner Palace," which showed U.S. soldiers in Baghdad, "Dreamland" covers a few weeks in 2004 when soldiers from the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, were deployed to Fallujah to restore order. But unlike "Palace," "Dreamland" is bare, spare and less judgmental in its approach to documenting its subjects as they patrol war-torn neighborhoods, hang around their bunks talking trash (at their camp, nicknamed "Camp Dreamland"), listen to Iraqi grievances and occasionally ask that oft-debated question: Why are we here?
While some of these soldiers -- and even their superiors -- have no idea why they're risking their lives in Iraq, they are nonetheless steadfast in upholding their duties. In fact, a couple of them may be too hyped up about upholding their duties. "I kinda enjoy getting shot at," one soldier says. "It kinda keeps the energy up, you know?" Luckily, the majority of soldiers don't feel the same way.
What makes "Dreamland," a film that shockingly doesn't have an agenda, so fascinating is how it refuses to make these boys look like gung-ho idiots. Hey, even in "Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore made the soldiers look like trigger-happy yahoos too young and stupid to know the seriousness of the situation. The men of "Dreamland" are brave and intelligent, with opinions that occasionally clash but never get in the way of what they're doing. They are flawed-yet-admirable men fighting a flawed-yet-deadly serious war, which "Occupation: Dreamland" covers with striking, funny and welcome simplicity.
Staff writer Craig D. Lindsey can be reached at 829-4760 or firstname.lastname@example.org.