New film `The Situation’ highlights Iraq war

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK – The timing couldn’t be better for independent filmmaker Philip Haas.

His modest $2 million movie, “The Situation,” one of the first U.S. feature films to focus on the fighting in Iraq, opens this month amid the nationwide debate over President Bush’s plan to send more troops to the war-torn country.

Although the drama crafted by Haas and journalist Wendell Steavenson is set in 2004, its message of chaos and misunderstanding, mixed with violence, rings true for Iraq today. If anything, Haas said, the situation, the innocuous word Iraqis in the film use to refer to the war and all that goes with it, has only worsened.

“In a way, the film has become more timely,” said Haas, a New York-based director. “I think it is an unsettling movie because it’s very clear about why (Iraq) is so problematic and why there aren’t many answers.”

The 106-minute movie opens with a group of American soldiers throwing a boy off a bridge in Samarra. The fictional scene is reminiscent of the real-life incident in 2004 when an Iraqi curfew violator drowned and an Army lieutenant was ultimately sentenced to 45 days in a military prison for his role in the death.

In “The Situation,” that act triggers a chain of events that feed on the deep-seated rifts and corruption that permeate Iraq. Connie Nielsen stars as an American journalist who attempts to write about the incident, only to get caught up in the confusion and dynamics of Iraqi tribalism.

Her boyfriend, played by Damian Lewis, is an American intelligence officer living in the fortified Green Zone – complete with a Chinese restaurant and swimming pool – who is trying to win over the Iraqis with promises of hospitals and water-treatment plants. At the same time, he struggles to figure out who he can trust.

“There is no truth, you know,” Lewis’ character, Dan Murphy, tells an enthusiastic young officer who recently arrived in Iraq. “It’s not about locking up all the bad guys … There are no bad guys and there are no good guys … It’s just that the truth shifts according to each person you talk to.”