Full Battle Rattle
Mile End Films
Now Showing at: Cincinnati World Cinema.
Review by: Larry Thomas
The opening scenes of Full Battle Rattle look like a regular day in the middle of the Iraq war. The blazing sun rises. Soldiers patrol. Suddenly a gunfight erupts and people from both sides lay bleeding on the ground. Except this isn’t Iraq. It’s a training facility at Fort Irwin in California’s Mojave Desert. Here, the military simulates conditions over there, so that the soldiers will have some idea of what to expect when they arrive in Iraq. This is their last training stop before deployment.
It’s an elaborate setup, encompassing over one thousand square miles and representing fourteen different Iraqi villages. The facility is run like a movie set, with participants assigned roles with identities and backgrounds. Situations are devised for all manner of occurrences. Iraqi speaking American citizens are hired to play the roles of the locals. Much time is spent prepping the role-players into the depth of their character’s lives, including family members killed in the war, current occupations, and how they feel about American’s being in their country, although we are given very little information about the soldiers receiving the training.
Although the film assumes a non-partisan stance to the war, it is rather odd to see American soldiers playing war in order to prepare for the real thing. But does such training make our soldiers feel as if war is a game, and that winning depends on how well you play the game? The concept also raises other possible moral and ethical questions that go unanswered. To gain access to the facility, the filmmakers obviously needed to refrain from offering any opinions that might show the military in a negative light. But since the film does not have a point of view to tout, it leaves it to the viewer to come up with the answers, and to hopefully raise even more questions.
The film won the Special Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature at this years’ South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.
Full Battle Rattle is a presentation of Cincinnati World Cinema, and this time a very important guest will be on-hand for the post film discussion. Captain Christopher Mugavero of the U.S. Army and an Iraqi veteran, was for five years assistant operations officer at the training facility, and participated in the making of this film, which should certainly make for an interesting Q&A session.
The unrated Full Battle Rattle shows on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm in the Cincinnati Art Museum’s auditorium.