Friday, January 2, 2015
My Country, My Country (2006) by Laura Poitras documents the tense months leading up to elections in Iraq in early 2005. Poitras follows the step-by-step process of ballot and polling place preparation with Iraqi and foreign officials. She follows journalists, American military personnel, and contractors who weigh in on events as they happen. But the key to the film is a parallel plot about an Iraqi doctor running for office in Baghdad. Poitras's long-term, sensitive, and profoundly engaging focus on Dr. Riyadh and his family shows the power of observational documentary. Poitras frames Dr. Riyadh as the embodiment of an idealized Iraq and the symbol of a country in chaotic times. The viewer gets to know him as he sees patients in the clinic, visits Abu Ghraib prison (second still), talks to his neighbors, and spends time with his wife and children. Dr. Riyadh represents the wish for self-determination demonstrated by candidates and voters. The film may document events from ten years ago, but it maintains its documentary value and relevance.