The title of Iraq in Fragments refers to a possible future for the country, divided—as the three-part film is—among the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish populations. It also refers to the fragmentary nature of its construction. Atypical for a documentary whose subject would so readily lend itself to a political statement, it doesn't appear to press any sort of point. There are no statistics, no voiceover or narration; only fugitive glimpses of the hard lives of the occupied.
The lack of narrative can be frustrating, as director James Longley's camera never alights in one place long enough for a story to mature on its own. There's a restlessness to his sweep that gives the goings-on a random quality. Which isn't to say the film lacks design—on the micro scale, it's an elaborate mosaic, built from meticulously framed shots and pinpoint editing. It's just that the emphasis is on the visuals rather than the people.
The visuals and editing are undeniably marvelous, though, which helped get it nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award in 2006. What's surprising is that the scenes of occupation it depicts are still going on today, with nearly 50,000 American soldiers currently stationed in Iraq and set to stay at least through next summer. Remind yourself that it's not over over there at this free screening. —Marc Maximov