This film was motivated by a sense of despair about the contradictions of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and its project to implement democracy in the Middle East through the use of military force.
I spent eight months in Iraq, from June 2004 to February 2005. I worked alone, operating camera and sound. I met Dr. Riyadh, a medical doctor and Sunni political candidate, at Abu Ghraib while he was conducting an inspection of the prison. The inspection took place two months after the abuse photographs were made public. I knew immediately that this man’s story would capture something larger about the meaning and implications of this war.
Although My Country, My Country focuses on the January 2005 elections, it is a broader story about U.S. foreign policy post-9/11. The use of preemptive military force and the project to implement democracy in the Middle East mark a radical shift in U.S. policy and world politics. I was compelled to document this shift and its repercussions. These elections were the first held following the U.S. invasion, and thus are the testing ground of this new era.
I took the risk in telling this story because I believed it was a story that wasn’t being told and wouldn’t be told. We read daily accounts of suicide bombings, U.S. military strikes, etc., and yet these stories remain abstract events that don’t connect to human beings. The U.S. media covers the death of each U.S. citizen, yet there are no accurate reports on Iraqi civilian deaths. The left and right of the political spectrum debate the war, and yet the debate rarely takes into account the lives of Iraqis or the U.S. soldiers whose lives are on the line. I believe that a story about a man fighting for democracy while living under U.S. occupation will contribute something new to my country’s understanding of this war.
—Laura Poitras, Director