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Operation Filmmaker

3.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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(Dec 16, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In the wake of Operation Iraqi Freedom, American actor Liev Schreiber had an idealistic notion: to rescue an Iraqi film student from the rubble of his country and bring him to the West to intern on a Hollywood movie (Everything is Illuminated). It promised to be a heartwarming tale, a small victory out of the troubled mission of the US war in Iraq. But as in the war itself, good intentions yielded unintended consequences, and even this operation doesn't go according to plan. Director Nina Davenport becomes personally involved in Schreiber's effort, and soon finds herself embroiled in a complex moral quagmire and all-consuming power struggle between filmmaker and subject.

Review

Tense and transfixing! --Jessica Winters, O The Oprah Magazine

An absorbing story... smartly put together. --Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

You won't know whether to laugh or cry. I did both. --Peter Travers, Rolling Stones

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Liev Schreiber, Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Elijah Wood, Muthana Mohmed
  • Directors: Nina Davenport
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Icarus Films
  • DVD Release Date: December 16, 2008
  • Run Time: 92 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001N3R8W6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230,595 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Muthana is a young man from Iraq. One day, while walking the streets of Baghdad, MTV camera catches him expressing desire to learn how to become a filmmaker so he can capture evertything that is going on in his city and his country. Touched by Muthana's plea, actor Liev Schriber who was in a process of filming a movie in Prague about cross cultural divide between young men from two different worlds, invites Muthana to become an intern on the set in order to learn the art of filmmaking.

It is at this point that director Nina Davenport decides to make a documentary about Muthana's experiences. She follows Muthana from Iraq to Czech Republic and films his interactions with Muthana's sponsors, film crew, actors and everyone else on the set. From the start, things are off. It seems that Muthana's homesickness is shadowing his learning process. He quickly learns that he is in his own and will have to put more effort in order to impress people around him. Soon it becomes obvious that Muthana is not self-motivated and that his only desire is to find a way to extend his stay in Europe and eventually move to the United States.

It is interesting how people quickly read Muthana's agenda. But it is really Nina who gets sucked into young man's manipulations where he wants her to give him money, help him with his numerous visa extensions in Prague and visa applications for London School of Film. Nina seems what is going on but for the sake of her documentary where Muthana is the main protagonist she gives into his unreasonable demands and openly hostile and abusive behavior.

What was stiking to me in this documentary is the number of people who had only the best intentions for this young man.
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Format: DVD
A couple years after the United States' invasion of Iraq, American actor Liev Schreiber saw a young Iraqi film student named Muthana Mohmed featured on MTV. With a mind to give Mohmed a professional opportunity and a respite from the war, Schreiber and his producer Peter Saref invited Mohmed to work on Schreiber's directorial debut, "Everything Is Illuminated", which was filming in the Czech Republic. Nina Davenport, who directs this documentary, was hired by MTV to document Mohmed's experiences on the set. "Operation Filmmaker" is the peculiar result. Davenport ends up following Mohmed for 9 months, far beyond his initial contract. We watch their relationship deteriorate, Mohmed struggle to stay in the West, and wonder who is fooling whom.

Mohmed is trying to fool a lot of people and that a lot of well-meaning, guilt-ridden Americans are trying hard to fool themselves. It's a little uncomfortable to watch, but, at the same time, the story propels itself forward by always leaving us wondering when and if people are going to wizen up and when Mohmed will finally return to Iraq. At first Mohmed struck me as good at self-promotion and given to hyperbole, but he's trying to make opportunities for himself, so who can blame him? Ten minutes into this film, it's obvious that he's a lazy, pathological liar. What makes this interesting is how far people are willing to indulge his manipulations because his country was the victim of American aggression and because they don't want to be culturally insensitive. On the other hand, Mohmed may really want to return to Iraq but fear that his family and friends will see him as a failure if he does.

Muthana Mohmed shouldn't be taken as typical of Iraqis, but his story could embody a number of themes: 1.
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Davenport's attempts to pluck a 25 year old Iraqi man out of his element, place him in a foreign country and parallel his crappy work ethic to the hopeless war in Iraq is transparent and ineffective. Muthana's background tells it all: cute young guy who still lives with mom, has everything done for him, never had a real job....if his name was Matt rather than Muthana, you'd chalk it up to being a product of Generation laz(Y). Well, apparently things aren't that much different overseas: Muthana's sheltered upbringing does not prepare him for the demands of his job; not surprising as your average American 25 yr old, with a similar upbringing, probably couldn't do much better.

To be fair, Muthana's journey is interesting to watch, so the film is not totally hopeless. Muthana's naturally charming, cute and funny. Liev went on a supposed "humanitarian" effort with Muthana, knowing next to nothing about this young man, first spotting him on MTV's True Life. It might be worth nothing that Liev spotted Muthana on the same network that featured an adult man sucking on a cow's teat and showcased the Jersey Fist Pump. Liev, perhaps, next time you'll try Monster or Careerbuilder for your job recruiting....

At one point Muthana tries to use typical American preconceptions of the Middle East to manipulate Liev featuring an elaborate story about a bomb being dropped in his neighborhood.

It's obvious by this point that Liev realizes Muthana is full of it, quite lazy at his job, and is not being truthful about his background. It's revealed that Muthana lived quite a nice life in Iraq and that, though his family back home is on lockdown due to the bombings, they are not as bad off or destitute as one might assume. That's when the movie takes on a "sinister" portrayal of Muthana.
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