Operation FilmmakerDirected by: Nina Davenport Cast: Muthana Mohmed, Nina Davenport, Liev Schreiber Running Time: 1 hr 30 min Rating: Unrated
Plot: Muthana Mohmed attends film school in Iraq until it is bombed during the invasion of Baghdad in 2003. In an act of charity, Director Liev Schreiber invites him to work as a PA on the set of Everything is Illuminated. There, instead of stepping up to the challenge, he flounders. After they're done filmming, Mohmed decides he doesn't want to return to Iraq, where conditions have deteriorated. He then struggles to maintain travel visas and support himself financially in Europe.
Who’s It For? Viewers who enjoy documentaries where the filmmaker plays a large part. People interested in another perspective on the Iraq war. Those who don't mind cursing.
Expectations: The DVD box had a line on it, "But as in the war itself, good intentions yielded unintended consequences, and even this operation doesn't go according to plan." That didn't sound promising.
Actors: Muthana Mohmed: A young man who comes from Baghdad, Iraq to Prague in the Czech Republic to work as a Production Assistant. He's a film student who seems like he wants to be part of the film industry, but like many young people, is not exactly sure where he fits in. The filmmakers on Everything is Illuminated find that despite their sympathy for his country's situation, they just don't like him. At this point, Muthana really retreats as a documentary subject, becoming demanding and sullen. He has two speeds, thrilled that all is going well or angry and lashing out when things don't. As his relationship with Davenport degenerates, he becomes a very frustrating subject, it's never clear what's really going on with him. The filmmaker doesn't understand him and by extension, neither can the viewer. I ended up really disliking him, if only because I was wasting time watching someone so unwilling to share himself. Score: 3
Nina Davenport: Director Nina Davenport plays an increasingly large part in the film as it progresses. After Everything is Illuminated wraps, she chooses to stay in Prague to continue filming Muthana and becomes one of his only confidants in that country. Though she attempts to keep him as a documentary subject, he increasingly breaks the fourth wall, and she decides to make that a part the film. Thus the film becomes more about the relationship between filmmaker and subject than about Muthana and his attempts to become a filmmaker. Score: 5
Talking: Most of the people in this film are pretty well spoken. Muthana has a pronounced accent but is still totally understandable. Still, despite sounding good, very often someone would talk and you wouldn't know how much they meant what was said. Davenport doesn't seem to understand who means what anymore than the viewer, which creates a confusing experience. Score: 5
Sights: The scenery of Prague is just beautiful, but beyond a few beauty shots, the film looks spotty at best. It doesn't help that sometimes people refuse to be filmed and she has to hide the camera. Score: 5
Sounds: No problems here, but nothing really great either. Little music to speak of. Score: 6
Little to speak of. There are some deleted scenes, mainly from Muthana's video journal that show him fretting. Nina Davenport does offer a video explanation, trying to explain why she continued filming even after it became clear that Muthana wasn't really into it anymore. It didn't really offer any answers. I suspect that after watching and rewatching the footage during editing, she realized that she kind of looked like a masochist for staying on the project. And she kind of does. Score: 4
I wanted to like this movie, or at least be interested by it, but I just got so frustrated. I feel like Davenport moved too quickly over the beginning of the film, when Muthana first arrives at the set in Prague, so I never got a good sense about how relations deteriorated between him and the film crew. They talked about it, but it seemed more like their expectations were out of whack and the producer and director were unable to make it clear what they expected out of him. I shared Muthana's frustration when he shows up at a film set and finds out he's expected to mix nuts in a trailer for a high maintenance producer. I wanted to really understand what was going on, why Muthana was so frustrated. What were his expectations? He talks about it, but he becomes increasingly unreliable as a narrator and I couldn't trust him.
Final Score: 4/10