Outside the Wire : Baghdad Happens
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(Mar 20, 2009)
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Baghdad Happens is the story of an improbable, unforeseeable, irreplicable sequence of events that took place one day in Baghdad.
In his fifth documentary on the Iraq war, JD Johannes throws many of the cliches of what a war documentary should be out the window.
"Our guiding vision was to ask, 'What would PBS and Bill Moyers do?' then do the exact opposite," Johannes said.
"The soldiers in this documentary were really up beat. They had been on a string of successful missions and they could tell the fortunes of war were turning in their favor," Johannes said. "So, we took that positive energy let it show through."
Johannes conducted the interviews with the soldiers at Joint Security Station Black Lion a day after the successful mission.
"These guys were riding high at that moment and you rarely get to see that in a documentary," Johannes said.
Other anti-PBS aspects include a disco-funkadelic-surf-rock soundtrack and Johannes narrating the documentary on-camera in a tavern.
"My co-producer Brad asked, 'Where are you most likely to tell this story?' so, I put on a super-fly suit I wear to film festivals and Brad interviewed me at a drinking establishment," Johannes said. "That may explain why I become more animated as the movie goes along."
While most documentaries about Iraq are political, or try to play up emotional angst, Baghdad Happens shows the complexity of military operations, putting it in the larger context of war.
"Humans have been fighting wars since the dawn of time. The inherent nature of war never changes. Only the technology changes. For some reason, we seem to forget that," Johannes said.
Like his previous four documentaries, Johannes shot all the footage and interviews in Iraq himself.
"Some people think I have a production crew--a camera man, sound guy, production assisstant. Nope. It is just me doing the best I can to overcome the environment."
"No pre-interviews, no studio interviews, no lights. In that regard it is almost the exact opposite of how most documentaries are made."
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Top Customer Reviews
I cannot explain the favorable review of this video except that it may have been written by someone with clouded objectivity.
The events J.D. Johannes portrays happened as he says they did. I know because I was there (not on the raid itself) in the unit he was embedded with and sat in on the after action review (AAR). Johannes was in the proverbial right place at the right time to witness the events unfold as they did.
It's not a film filled with explosions and intense firefights, but it will give you a raw, unfiltered look at "a day in the life" of an infantry company on the ground in a sectarian hotspot and how the Soldiers not only coped with the challenges of combat, but how trained, alert and disciplined troops all pulled together to bring down a thug who was doing his part to terrorize a neighborhood. These types of operations played out repeatedly for our brigade over a period of 15 months while we were there, but in this instance, everything came together at the right time for Johannes to bring you the cause and effect like few films about the Iraq war can.