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Unfiled June 16, 2006
 
American Werewolves in Baghdad
By Alex Shifrin Browse author Email
 
 

History is written by the winners.

Alex Haley

In the mid 90's, Rutger Hauer starred in a movie called Fatherland. The film presented a fictional "what if" scenario, an alternative history depicting how things might have been if Nazi Germany had won WWII. One thing's for sure, The Pianist would not have received so many Oscars.

Given this effect of war victory or defeat on cinema, if you're curious about how movies will look once America finally admits defeat and pulls out of Iraq, go see Valley of the Wolves: Iraq.

Produced in Turkey, the film is essentially a Muslim take on the current Middle Eastern conflicts. It's 2003 and a team of American soldiers descend on a Turkish outpost in Iraq. At gunpoint, the Americans force this small group of Turks to abandon their HQ wearing cloth bags on their heads, similar to the way terrorists and/or hostages are transported. After one of the senior Turk officers commits suicide from being unable to cope with the shame, three well trained Turkish spec ops, with the help of local Iraqi insurgents, take on the American occupying forces in order to restore their Turkish honor.

Sounds like an innocent enough flick, no? Well, no. As it turns out, these Americans are pretty damn evil. One of the first things that they do is bust up a Muslim wedding, shooting a five year old as the men-folk are rounded up and put inside a sealed rig. After being machine-gunned by one of the senior US officers, the surviving Iraqis are herded into a medical camp, where their organs are removed for transport to England and the US.

Of course, the good guys the fellow Muslims that is are not going to stand for this type of dastardly behavior. Rigging a US backed hotel with explosives, the head Turkish spec op calls in the American chief (Billy Zane). Now this is amazing in and of itself. Did Zane read the fucking script before sticking his face in front of the camera? Someone should really pull a Salman Rushdie on that traitor's ass. But who? Pat Robertson squeaking a fatwah? After backing down like a bitch on his Chavez fatwah? No way.

Moving on, after evacuating the building, the Turk tells the American that the hotel will be destroyed unless the American team puts cloth bags on their heads and walks out of the hotel, losing face as did the Turkish soldiers some while back. Not to be defeated, Zane ushers in a group of Muslim children, inviting the Turk to ignite the fuse with all present. The ol' "human shield" trick. Naturally, the Muslim walks out of the hotel, refusing to hurt innocents.

It took about 20 minutes for me to truly understand what I found so difficult and illogical about this film. Seeing action films of this cinematic quality (and it is pretty decent quality), you're not meant to perceive the Western forces as intrinsically evil. Even when you're watching Vietnam War films, and after decades of hearing about how the whole thing was one big fucking mistake, the West is still somehow presented as the good guys caught up in bad circumstances. It's always the story of the small soldier, with the big heart who doesn't really understand why he's fighting, but still does it for some greater good above and beyond the wishes of a few ill willed political heads. He's still got a photo of his girl back home, and he still cries when his buddy is ripped apart by a land mine.

In Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, it's still the same American faces, in the same American combat gear, yet it's so weird seeing them as the caricatured bad-guys that it's disorientating.

You watch Zane and his insane officers, and you wait for the good guy from the Midwest to finally appear and make it all right, but he never does. Oh, there are plenty of good guys, it's just that they're all wearing headdresses. This film was like being presented with a four sided triangle it went against my cultural geometry.


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