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12 Best Documentaries About Iraq

These documentaries about Iraq show a complex nation ranging from the devastating consequences of wars and invasions to the resilience and cultural richness of its people.

These films serve not only as historical records but also as powerful vehicles for understanding the multifaceted layers of Iraq’s societal fabric, shedding light on its past, present, and uncertain future.


Documentaries About Iraq

From intimate personal narratives to expansive geopolitical analyses, documentaries about Iraq offer you a window into a nation caught in the throes of transformation and struggle.


Michael Palin in Iraq (2022)

Despite all the troubles of the past in Iraq and the current problems that are still ongoing, I wanted to start this list of documentaries about Iraq with a slightly upbeat one with one of my favourite travel presenters.

“Michael Palin in Iraq” is a documentary television series presented by the renowned British actor, comedian, and travel presenter Michael Palin. It follows Palin as he embarks on a journey across Iraq, exploring its rich history, diverse culture, and current challenges.

Throughout the series, Palin travels extensively across the country, visiting cities, and archaeological sites, and meeting with local people from different walks of life. He delves into Iraq’s ancient past, exploring its significance as the birthplace of civilization and home to iconic historical landmarks such as Babylon and the ancient city of Ur.

Palin also engages with contemporary Iraq, discussing its recent history marked by wars, conflict, and political upheaval. He meets with Iraqi citizens, including artists, musicians, and everyday individuals, to gain insight into their lives, aspirations, and perspectives on the country’s future.

“Michael Palin in Iraq” gives you a unique and personal perspective on a nation often depicted in the media through the lens of conflict and instability. Through Palin’s trademark wit, warmth, and curiosity, the series provides a nuanced and humanizing portrayal of Iraq, highlighting its enduring resilience and cultural richness despite the challenges it faces.


No End in Sight (2007)

“No End in Sight” meticulously examines the complexities and consequences of the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, as well as the subsequent occupation and administration of the country.

Through interviews with policymakers, military officials, journalists, and Iraqi civilians, the documentary sheds light on the decision-making process leading up to the invasion, the flawed planning for the post-war reconstruction, and the ensuing chaos and violence that engulfed Iraq.

The documentary is particularly notable for its thorough analysis of the missteps and failures of the U.S. government and military in the handling of the Iraq War, offering a critical perspective on the administration’s policies and strategies.


Iraq in Fragments (2006)

“Iraq in Fragments” is a visually stunning and deeply moving film that offers an intimate portrayal of life in Iraq following the 2003 invasion and during the subsequent occupation. It is divided into three parts, each focusing on a different aspect of Iraqi society.

The first part of the documentary explores the daily struggles of Sunni Arabs living in Baghdad. It follows the lives of ordinary people trying to navigate the chaos and violence of post-invasion Iraq, providing a glimpse into the human cost of war and displacement.

The second part delves into the religious fervour of Shia Muslims in Najaf, one of Iraq’s holiest cities. Through intimate portraits and breathtaking cinematography, the film captures the rituals and traditions of Shia Islam and the profound faith that sustains many Iraqis amidst adversity.

The final part of “Iraq in Fragments” focuses on the Kurdish community in the north of Iraq. It highlights the resilience of the Kurdish people as they strive to rebuild their lives and assert their cultural identity in the aftermath of decades of persecution and oppression.


Anthony Bourdain – No Reservations (Kurdistan)

“Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” is a travel and food documentary television series hosted by the late chef, author, and television personality Anthony Bourdain. In Season 7, Episode 15, titled “Kurdistan,” Bourdain explores the autonomous Kurdistan region, which spans parts of northern Iraq.

In this episode, Bourdain immerses himself in Kurdish culture, cuisine, and history, while also delving into the region’s political complexities and struggles for autonomy. He meets with locals, including Kurdish fighters, farmers, artists, and families, to gain insight into their way of life and experiences living in a region marked by conflict and upheaval.

Throughout the episode, Bourdain indulges in Kurdish cuisine, sampling traditional dishes and flavours unique to the region. He also visits historical sites, such as ancient ruins and landmarks, to learn about Kurdistan’s rich cultural heritage and its significance in the broader context of the Middle East.


The War Tapes (2006)

“The War Tapes” offers a unique and intimate perspective on the Iraq War by providing a firsthand account of the conflict through the eyes of American soldiers.

The documentary follows several members of the New Hampshire National Guard’s 172nd Infantry Regiment, who were deployed to Iraq in 2004. What sets “The War Tapes” apart is that the soldiers themselves were given video cameras and encouraged to film their experiences on the battlefield and in their daily lives while stationed in Iraq.

This approach allows you to witness the war directly through the unfiltered and raw footage captured by the soldiers themselves. The documentary captures the chaos, fear, camaraderie, and moral dilemmas faced by the soldiers as they navigate the realities of combat and life in a war zone.


Gunner Palace (2004)

“Gunner Palace” provides a unique and unfiltered look at the Iraq War through the eyes of American soldiers stationed at the U.S. Army’s 2/3 Field Artillery unit in Baghdad’s Adhamiya neighbourhood.

The documentary follows the soldiers of the 2/3 Field Artillery unit as they navigate the challenges of their deployment in Iraq. It captures their daily routines, interactions with Iraqi civilians, and experiences on the front lines, offering a glimpse into the complexities and realities of modern warfare.

What sets “Gunner Palace” apart as one of the best documentaries about Iraq is its intimate and personal approach to storytelling. The filmmakers embedded themselves with the soldiers for two months, gaining unprecedented access to their lives and capturing their experiences firsthand.


My Country, My Country (2006)

“My Country, My Country” gives an intimate and insightful look into the lives of ordinary Iraqis in the months leading up to the 2005 Iraqi elections, particularly focusing on the experiences of Dr. Riyadh, an Iraqi doctor and political candidate.

The documentary follows Dr. Riyadh as he navigates the challenges of running for office in the midst of the Iraq War and the U.S. occupation. Dr. Riyadh’s story, “My Country, My Country” offers a nuanced and humanizing portrayal of the complexities of Iraqi society and the impact of war and political turmoil on its people.

The film explores a wide range of issues, including the struggles of Iraqi civilians to rebuild their lives amidst violence and instability, the challenges of establishing a functioning democracy in the aftermath of dictatorship, and the tensions between Iraqi citizens and the occupying U.S. forces.

What sets “My Country, My Country” apart is its deeply personal and empathetic approach to storytelling. Poitras spent over eight months living in Iraq and building relationships with the people she filmed, allowing her to capture their experiences with honesty and authenticity.


Meeting Resistance (2007)

“Meeting Resistance” provides a unique and nuanced perspective on the Iraq War by exploring the motivations and perspectives of Iraqi insurgents fighting against the U.S. occupation.

Rather than focusing solely on the experiences of American soldiers or Iraqi civilians, “Meeting Resistance” delves into the lives of Iraqi insurgents, offering insights into their backgrounds, beliefs, and reasons for taking up arms against the occupying forces.

Through interviews with former insurgents and dramatic reenactments, the documentary sheds light on the complex web of factors driving the insurgency, including nationalism, religious fervour, and resistance to foreign occupation.

The filmmakers take a humanizing approach to their subjects, allowing viewers to see beyond the stereotypes and propaganda surrounding the insurgency and to understand the individuals behind the violence.


Occupation: Dreamland (2005)

“Occupation: Dreamland” provides an unfiltered and intimate portrayal of the daily lives and experiences of a U.S. Army infantry platoon deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, in early 2004 during the Iraq War.

The film offers a ground-level perspective on the realities of war as seen through the eyes of the soldiers, capturing their interactions with Iraqi civilians, patrols through the city streets, and engagements with insurgents. Through candid interviews and observational footage, “Occupation: Dreamland” sheds light on the physical and psychological challenges faced by the soldiers as they navigate the complexities of counterinsurgency operations.

One of the documentary’s strengths is its focus on the individual experiences and perspectives of the soldiers, allowing viewers to develop a deeper understanding of the human toll of war. The filmmakers eschew political commentary in favour of presenting a raw and unvarnished portrayal of life on the front lines.


About Baghdad (2004)

“About Baghdad” offers a unique and multifaceted perspective on life in Baghdad in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Through a series of intimate interviews and observational footage, “About Baghdad” provides a window into the lives of ordinary Iraqis from diverse backgrounds, including artists, intellectuals, professionals, and everyday citizens. The documentary explores their experiences, hopes, fears, and aspirations in the midst of ongoing conflict, violence, and political upheaval.

One of the documentary’s strengths is its emphasis on the voices and stories of the Iraqi people themselves, allowing viewers to gain insight into their perspectives on the war, occupation, and the future of their country. The filmmakers eschew traditional narration in favour of a more immersive and humanizing approach to storytelling.


Control Room (2004)

“Control Room” provides a behind-the-scenes look at Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news network, during the early stages of the Iraq War in 2003. It offers a unique perspective on the conflict by exploring the media coverage from the Arab world’s most influential news outlet.

The documentary primarily focuses on the contrast between Western and Arab media narratives, particularly highlighting the differences in coverage and interpretation of events related to the Iraq War. Through interviews with Al Jazeera journalists and executives, as well as footage from the network’s newsroom, “Control Room” examines how media outlets shape public opinion and influence political discourse during times of war.

One of the central figures in the documentary is Lt. Josh Rushing, a U.S. Marine Corps press officer stationed at CENTCOM in Qatar, who provides insights into the American military’s perspective on media coverage. His interactions with Al Jazeera journalists offer a nuanced portrayal of the tensions between the U.S. government and Arab media outlets.


Iraq

These documentaries offer a range of perspectives on Iraq, from the experiences of American soldiers to the lives of ordinary Iraqis, providing valuable insights into one of the most significant geopolitical conflicts of the 21st century.

For more on the region have a look at the 10 best documentaries about Iran.


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