Friday, May 09, 2008

As a documentarian, Nick Broomfield has dissected American pop culture with films like "Biggie & Tupac" and "Kurt & Courtney." With his more recent forays into narrative feature filmmaking, he has broadened his scope to include global issues. "Ghosts" explored the dark world of Chinese migrant workers in the UK, and his latest work, "Battle for Haditha," which opened at Film Forum earlier this week, recreates the infamous 2005 incident where U.S. marines murdered two dozen Iraqi civilians in a small village, driven by rage after encountering a roadside bomb. An attempt by the military to cover up the role of the American soldiers in the slaughter didn't last long. Media scrutiny led to an internal investigation, and the events have now been thoroughly recorded in various reports.

Using real soldiers and Iraqis to recreate the event, the movie creates a raw, brutal portrait of wartime insanity. While "Haditha" escapes the pratfalls of rhetoric by taking a fly-on-the-wall approach, Broomfield clearly has a unique agenda: Unlike any other contemporary war film, the drama emerges from the action, rather than being superimposed on it. You'll find plenty of shouting, but no histrionics. Broomfield and actor Elliot Ruiz, an Iraq War veteran Broomfield cast as Corporal Ramirez, recently sat down with indieWIRE to discuss the main themes at work in the film.

iW: The central event of the film is based on real testimonies. Given your documentary background, why didn't you take that approach?

Nick Broomfield: I've been making documentaries for a number of years, and I think far too many people just stay in a groove and carry on what they've been doing for far too long. I think it's important as an artist, in whatever field you're in, to take on new challenges, try to tell stories in different ways, and develop your techniques into something new. When I did "Ghost," the film before this, I took a big risk by basically casting all non-actors using real locations, and shooting in a style that's not applied in traditional feature films. Feature films are still very much caught in this time warp of shooting master shots, close-ups, reaction shots - which is all a style that cinema verite is completely not about. Cinema verite is all about real time, long takes, uncertainty, the moment. I tried to keep all that in the style of making this film. At the same time, I tried to tell a story in a much more structured way. Obviously, it's a story that I don't appear in. I tried to forge a new technique of film, which I think is possible because of all the technological changes. I don't think you need to make feature films in the way they're made anymore. It comes out of a 1930's technology, and we've gone past it now.

Read the rest of the interview in indieWIRE...

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