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Film review: Documentary is a fearless operation

'Filmmaker' is an interesting profile — warts and all

Published: Friday, July 18 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

Liev Schreiber mentored Muthana Mohmed in "Operation Filmmaker."

Icarus Films

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OPERATION FILMMAKER — *** — Documentary profile of Iraqi filmmaker Muthana Mohmed; with English subtitles (Middle Eastern dialects); not rated, probable R (violence, profanity, gore, nude photos, slurs, brief drugs)

The documentary "Operation Filmmaker" doesn't paint the most flattering portrait of its subject, would-be moviemaker Muthana Mohmed.

But it's doubtful director Nina Davenport has done any real embellishment, doing something to make Mohmed look worse than he normally would. While she's not afraid to show her subject's bad side, he's the one who comes off as a bit of an ingrate, and he appears to be pretty manipulative. The film's pretty interesting as a result.

Davenport first "discovered" Mohmed while she was working for MTV. The charismatic Mohmed, who was still living in Iraq at the time, expressed his wish to become a filmmaker.

Unfortunately, some Iraqi university facilities and film-production studios were destroyed by bombings and attacks. So, when director Liev Schreiber and his producers saw the MTV reports, they invited Mohmed to join them in Prague — which is where they were shooting the 2005 movie "Everything is Illuminated."

As shown here, Mohmed tired of the supposed "drudge work" and even blew off an important editing assignment. And he abruptly left the production to join another one that was shooting in Europe around the same time — the video game-based thriller "Doom," starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

At times, it's hard to see just what is was that kind-hearted people like Schreiber and Johnson saw in the weaselly Mohmed to make them want to help him.

But again, it's fearless filmmaking. And the surprising observations about cultural differences and insights into the movie production process make the whole thing worthwhile.

"Operation Filmmaker" is not rated but would probably receive an R for strong violent images (newsreel footage of warfare, as well as some movie violence), scattered strong sexual profanity, gory and bloody images, glimpses of nude photos, racial and other derogatory slurs, and some brief drug references. Running time: 92 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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