The Democrats Won’t See This Film in Boston
Dave Eberhart, NewsMax.com
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
WASHINGTON – While Democrats party with champagne and caviar in Boston -- and fete Michael Moore for his propagandistic documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” -- another documentary is making the rounds in the heartland that makes a compelling case for George Bush.
Last week in Washington, Iraqi documentary film producer Jano Rosebiani began a cross-country tour of his new “Saddam’s Mass Graves,” a poignant examination of some real rank-and-file Iraqis who thank President Bush every day for what the filmmaker calls unabashedly the “gift of life.”
Those who have watched Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” may conclude the corpulent director was from another planet when his film portrayed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as a modern-day Shangri-la with children dancing in the streets.
Rosebiani reveals a different Iraq. His poignant film displayed for journalists at an event that paired the preview with the live testimony of Iraqis literally back from the grave – shot and pushed into mass graves only to miraculously survive their wounds and escape.
Rosebiani told NewsMax that he was in discussions with a distribution group in Los Angeles that has expressed interest in getting the provocative new film onto U.S. movie screens.
But if patrons expect the slap-stick partisan style of Moore, they should be forewarned that “Graves” offers not a single image of George Bush. “I wanted to keep the message absolutely free of politics,” Rosebiani told NewsMax.
And this he does religiously – even cutting tempting footage of gushing families in northern Iraq who have named their new baby sons “Bush,” always politely shaking off the suggestion that Bush is a last name in America.
Instead, the riveted viewer is given an up-close-and personal look at the genocides of dictator Saddam Hussein.
“I shall be sad forever,” laments one woman into the lens of Rosebiani’s camera. From the town of Hillah, the veiled woman literally wilts before the eyes as she sums up the unbearable agony of losing her entire family to the brutal regime.
The filmmaker’s somber message to the world at large: “Send doctors and help – instead of terrorists.”
Saddam’s Mass Graves debuted recently at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, where, as Rosebiani recounted to NewsMax, “I had some tough customers there to see the film – they were solidly against the U.S.’s intervention in Iraq. They told me that this was no longer their opinion after seeing the film.”
But it’s not just cynical Americans that Rosebiani hopes to sway with his work product – he wants to turn the heads of the doubters in Iraq and eventually even hostile Arab Street and Europe.
Already he has aired his film on the Iraq Satellite Network and through Voice of America. He entertains hopes of convincing Al-Jezeera, the Arab media giant, to show the film throughout the Arab world.
In the meantime, Rosebiani will be trekking through New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles to promote “Graves,” which is actually the middle part of a trilogy that started with “Jiyan” and ends with another brutally honest report in the forthcoming final chapter – “Chemical Ali.”
Change the World
“I really believe you can help change the world through the medium of films,” the soft-spoken native of the town of Zakho in Irag’s Kurdistan, tells NewsMax.
Educated in the U.S., Rosebiani is now headquartered in Iraq, where he says, “Mine is the only Iraq-based company that is producing films to Western standards.”
Rosebiani is the first to agree that his film does not have the raw entertainment flair of “Fahrenheit.” After all, his is a most serious subject that leaves precious little room for levity.
The quiet man is a bit shy when he suggests to NewsMax that Moore’s film was engineered to appeal on some levels to the “dumb and dumber” set.
His own raw images of unimaginable suffering and cruelty lead the viewer inexorably to a number of conclusions.
Paramount is the lesson that Hussein could have only been stopped by direct military intervention.
Second is that the carnage under his regime was Biblical – Hussein outright murdered an estimated 300,000 civilians. In the so called “Anfal” ethnic cleansing of 1988 -– alone -- 4000 villages were wiped from the face of the earth.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has gone on the record as believing that the figure is more like 400,000.
Rosebiani summed up: “An old man told me: ‘In Iraq when you dug in the ground, you would find oil. Now, all you find are bones.’”
Following a simple formula of “just show it,” Rosebiani has Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds recount in their own words how their brothers, husbands, children and friends were dragged from their homes in the middle of the night, beaten and starved at holding camps, and finally shot – their bodies pushed into mass graves. Foreigners from Kuwait, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran also came under the mantle of the systematic killings.
Director-producer Rosebiani interviews long-suffering Iraqis who came under sentence of death for the mere suspicion of opposing the dictator’s Baath party: “They took away the men and boys in trucks -- some of them barefoot and naked - never to be seen again.”
Filmed in cities and towns across Iraq, the film’s horrors include the opening of mass graves discovered in May, 2003, following the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
There are 270 known mass grave sites in the battered country. Rosebiani tells NewsMax that he suspects his countrymen will find even more – during the course of a painstaking forensic exercise that may take 50 years to complete.
Rosebiani confesses that the greatest difficulty in making the film was “listening to people pouring out their hearts, and often they would make us cry behind the camera. And then spending all this time editing, well, the human mind or heart can only take so much. Every Iraqi you talk to has a close relative or somebody they know who disappeared.”
But, insisted one reporter at the news conference, if getting rid of Saddam was such a boon to the country – why all the continuing bloodshed and violence toward the Coalition forces?
Rosebiani answers the question simply, describing that after decades of tyranny, the country remains traumatized – even to the point of still fearing Saddam, a man presumably safely incarcerated and awaiting his date with justice. He noted further that he would get one take on camera and yet another off the record.
“They’re still afraid to talk,” he explains about his countrymen.
The film was made with the cooperation of the Iraqi regional Human Rights Ministries, the Free Prisoners Association – and supported by grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development, working with the Coalition Provisional Authority.