Battle for Haditha: Broomfield on Iraq War

Nick Broomfield, better known as documentarian, has made his first dramatic feature with “Battle for Haditha.” Portraying the events leading to the November 19, 2005 massacre of 24 Iraqi noncombatants by U.S. Marines, the film assumes immediate poignancy due to its real-life inspiration.

Part recreation, part speculation, and based on interviews and archival footage, the drama personalizes the Iraq War and the tragic human cost on both sides. The film world-premiered at the Toronto Film Fest.

Shot in Jordan, “Battle for Haditha” centers on young American soldiers (several played by ex-Marines), as well as on the Iraqi families living in fear of terrorists. There is a middle-aged man and a much younger guy form two of the central insurgents.

Broomfield raises the tension level in depicting the insurgents waiting for a Marine convoy to pass over a roadside IED (Improvised Explosive Device). When the moment arrives, one man activates the bomb with his cell phone, blowing one Marine apart and injuring two others. Seeking vengeance, the surviving Marines retaliate by conducting a violent house-to-house search for the perpetrators.

Many Iraqis civilians, including women and children, are dead. With dialogue largely improvised, “Battle for Haditha” shows remarkable authenticity. One individual, Elliot Ruiz, is a former U.S. Marine Corporal who had been told he may never be able to walk again after badly damaging his leg during an insurgent attack in Tikrit. Having since taking up acting, his performance, as the conflicted Cpl. Ramirez, lends the film poignancy. The Haditha trials are about to get underway at Camp Pendleton, two years after the incident.

World premiering at the 2007 Toronto Film Fest, “Battle For Haditha” was shot by Nick Broomfield in an unconventional way.

Instead of a detailed script, there was only an outline of each scene, and the outline was reportedly based on rumors, since the trial had not begun when he started filming. His assumption was that the Marines were guilty and the insurgents were telling the truth.