A new perspective on a long-running conflict exposes the complexity of the strife, and the region.
While in many ways a straightforward wartime documentary “Mosul” is a different film as it delivers a different perspective. Centered on a reporter who is embedded with the forces this is not a tale told by an American media member while decamped with allied forces. Here we get an Iraqi journalist who is connected with Iraqi troops as they lead a collection of forces to retake the second largest city in the country from the clutches of ISIS.
The film is centered on Ali Maula, who is connected with a variety of leaders from the disparate forces who have come together to extricate a common enemy. ISIS has become such a disruptive and violent presence in the city that the normally combative sectarian groups — Christians, Sunnis, Kurds, and Shiites — are unifying to remove the scourge of the hyper-militant faction in the city.
As Maula intends to follow Iraqi troops when they enter the city he first speaks with the various leaders, including one female resistance leader who supports her troops with food as she avenges the death of her husband months earlier, at the hands of ISIS. Maula also is along to film a river collection of displaced citizens and he visits a refugee camp where the women collectively shed their burkas once free of the strict oppression.
As they approach Mosul we follow along as the Iraqis move from house to house, painstakingly reclaiming the city one home at a time. With each advancement we encounter citizens who relate their experiences under the violent regime. As Maula states he himself has to question the motivations of each person they encounter, unsure if they may be sympathizers to the invaders. Especially captivating are discussions with area children they encounter, as they detail the strife they have had to accept as part of their existence.
While the imagery is arresting, delivering a visceral real-world atmosphere that the news networks cannot come close to representing, there is also drama built into the coalition that has formed. The normally combative groups are bonded by a common enemy, and their leaders uniquely discuss the probability of a new unification, as they gather to fight the cause. There is much doubt with these claims. More than one leader pledges fealty to Iran in their efforts, touting that regime as an ally, who supports their cause with no ill-effects for the country.
That political complexity serves as a tumultuous backstory to go with the gripping action we see up close. “Mosul” does more than present us with gripping footage. It lays out the deeply intertwined conflicts in a country, and how a violent incursion is so disturbing that normally battling factions bond over reclaiming a city. The after effects do not promise much in the way of peace, but for a time liberating Mosul is enough to at least deliver some hope.