Wednesday, August 12, 2015

MIFF- Democrats and Only The Dead

movie, MIFF
My last two films for the Melbourne International Film Festival were politically themed documentaries. On Monday night I saw Democrats about the creation of Zimbabwe's 2013 constitution. After the 2008 election resulted in a coalition government, representatives from Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai's MDC-T party were charged with working together to create a new constitution. Shot over three years, the film follows Paul Mangwana from ZANU-PF and Douglas Mwonzora from MDC-T, the elected co-chairs of the Parliamentary Select Committee COPAC.

As they travel the country consulting with citizens about what they want in the constitution, the farcical conditions and intimidation of people by ZANU-PF was ever present as they bussed people into consultations and coached them on what to say. During the drafting process Mwonzora was arrested and put in jail for a few weeks for no reason, which delayed things at a critical juncture. The process dragged on for years and has some tense moments, but in the end members from both parties managed to work together to write the constitution, which was passed in a referendum. Unfortunately for the people of Zimbabwe, a lot of those democratic rights are still not in place as Mugabe continues to hold power.

MIFF, movie
Tonight's film was journalist Michael Ware's documentary Only The Dead about his time as a war correspondent in Iraq. Working for Time and CNN, he covered the United States' invasion of Iraq, toppling of Sadaam Hussein's regime, and subsequent descent into war with the rise of al-Qaeda and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Pieced together from footage he shot on a handheld camera over a 7 year period, it shows the absolute brutality of war from the front lines as Ware embeds with both insurgents and the US military for some significant battles in cities such as Fallujah and Ramadi. It is an honest and personal portrait of the realities of war and the effects it has on everyone involved.

We were very fortunate to have a Q&A session with Michael Ware after the film, and I really appreciated his insights, candor and at times humorous observations. When asked how he was still alive, he answered he had no idea. If you get a chance to see this film please do. It's not easy to watch but I think it is important to understand that war is not the sanitised version we see reported on tv.

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