“It humanises a story that is complex and difficult. The documentary is beautifully made with incredible access”
Mongoose Pictures for Channel 4
Initially envisaged as a 12-minute item for Channel 4 News, French cinematographer Olivier Sarbil ultimately spent nine months with the Iraqi Special Forces for a radical film that redefined the war documentary.
Sarbil, who was embedded with soldiers just metres away from Isis with no translator, worked with Mongoose’s James Jones to tell the story with no commentary, eschewing the breathless, shaky camera, run-and-gun language of war docs to adopt a more cinematic form. A bespoke score was supplied by the group Massive Attack.
The judges praised Channel 4 for giving Sarbil and Jones the freedom to break out of the current affairs mould to create a film that got closer than most to the soldiers and civilians caught up in the fighting and convey the moral complexities of war in sharp detail.
They lauded the doc for capturing intimate footage of soldiers forming bonds in challenging conditions and for producing a powerful, immersive and beautiful-looking film in enemy territory with clarity and purpose.
“It humanises a story that is complex, difficult and remote,” said one judge, adding: “The documentary is beautifully made with incredible access, and is filmed with compassion.”
Another summed up the judges’ collective feelings: “This is an extraordinary film that takes you into the heart of battle through the eyes of some real heroes. It contains great depth and complexity.”
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