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Film review: 'Occupation: Dreamland' unflattering to soldiers

Published: Friday, Dec. 9 2005 12:00 a.m. MST

OCCUPATION: DREAMLAND — ** — Documentary feature about U.S. Army soldiers serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom; not rated, probable R (violence, profanity, vulgarity, ethnic slurs, nude photos).

With all the sympathy and compassion being given to U.S. soldiers who have served or are currently serving in Iraq, it's surprising how quickly those profiled in "Occupation: Dreamland" wear out their welcome.

Filmmakers Garrett Scott and Ian Olds' documentary is hardly the most flattering portrayal of America's fighting men. In fact, most of those shown here are foul-mouthed prone to the prototypical, Ugly American variety.

Yet the film is perversely watchable, albeit not as rewarding as the better done "Gunner Palace." "Occupation: Dreamland" will primarily be of interest to those wishing to see what conditions are like in Iraq.

The film's title refers to a former Iraqi retreat that was called Dreamland by the locals. That's where some of the soldiers from the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division are stationed. They're supposed to keep the peace, and, if possible, to improve relations with the locals. Obviously that's a tall order, though Staff Sgt. Chris Corcione and his men are doing their best. The soldiers also try to find ways to keep themselves amused when they have "down time" — that is, until the fighting starts heading their way.

Co-directors Scott and Olds had nearly unlimited access to the soldiers, unlike legitimate news media and journalists, whose access is considerably more restricted. So it's frustrating to see these filmmakers continually lobbing softball questions at their subjects.

Too many questions are left unanswered, as when Corcione boasts, "I wasn't exactly a model citizen before the Army," with footage of Corcione in his heavy metal days — as if, by itself, that's a condemnation of his character.

"Occupation: Dreamland" is not rated but would probably receive an R for footage of war violence (gun fire, shootings and missile attacks, mostly overheard), frequent use of strong sexual profanity, some vulgar references and humor, use of crude slang terms and ethnic slurs, and glimpses of nude photos. Running time: 78 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com