This is Falluja. Be careful of Falluja,” cautions an Iraqi local to one of the young soldiers in the 82nd Airborne. This is the intimate story of a U.S. Army squad that is filled with ‘good ole boys’ who dropped out of community college because “liberal arts is a bullshit degree,” a former guitarist in a heavy metal band, a Southern Democrat with a wife and three children, a repressed artist and a Puerto Rican wrestler from Chicago. The cast of characters in this reality film is closer to Kelly’s Heroes than Platoon.
The film takes the enlisted man’s point of view as they strategically patrol through the streets of Falluja, bombs detonating, rattling the squad somewhat, to search and seizure night raids, where Iraqi dissidents are “zipped up” in canvas hoods and transported to jail. The directors, Garrett Scott and Ian Olds, who often employ the view from the soldier’s green-tinted night goggles, spent six weeks in early 2004 with the men of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion of the 505th Parachute Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. Led by West Point graduate, Lt. Matt Bacik, often times their mission is to instill good public relations amongst the citizens of Falluja, who feel that these soldiers should be in Baghdad or elsewhere. The men respect their enlisted squad leader, Staff Sgt. Chris Corcione, a chain-smoking, coffee drinking, North Carolina native who joined the Army as he felt that his life was “going down the tubes.” His sense of humor is infectious and seems to ease the tension amongst the men during down time in their bungalows, where they comment frankly on photographs of women in magazines and smoke cigarettes.
Political views amongst the members of the squad run from Sgt. Eric Forbes’s ambivalence that “the Army is trying to establish a US controlled, OPEC style country” to Pfc. Thomas Turner, a Democrat who confesses “I am loyal to my country and I’m loyal to my Commander in Chief. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with it.” One of the more interesting soldiers in the unit is Spc. Joseph Wood, an artist who spends his spare times drawing sketches. He grew up in a suppressed Southern Baptist household and actually finds freedom in the confines of Army life in the desert. One of the younger GI’s is 21-year old Sgt. John Blyler, an accomplished athlete from Altoona, Pennsylvania. He reveals his feelings about the Iraqis by saying, “Before I came here I wanted to help them. But now, I don’t care for them. I’m just waiting to get out of here.”
Fortunately, these men did get out of Iraq in February of 2004, to be replaced by dedicated U.S. Marines who saw the city violently unravel, leaving nearly a thousand men in its wake. Occupation: Dreamland opens in New York City on September 23rd and in select cities throughout the fall.