Tribeca Film Festival
Directed by: Beth Murphy
Featuring: Kirk Johnson
MPAA: Not Rated
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Although Johnson?s heart is in the right place, in this film he comes off as being naïve.
?The List? starts out with some of the best and most disturbing newsreel shots one will ever see of the Iraq war. The horrendous works of the murderous terrorists continue to raise havoc in a nation desperately in need of peace. In the midst of this, Kirk Johnson went to the country to join the rebuilding effort and found himself in the middle of grenade launcher and IED heaven in Fallujah, the least livable city in the world then, and probably, now.
Johnson is the modern day Oskar Schindler, fighting to get thousands of Iraqis out of Iraq. Of course, these are not normal Iraqis. They are special. Specifically, they are special because they were kind enough to help the USA in its war against Saddam Hussein. Now that the smoke is clearing and the dust is settling, their lives are in danger. They are being targeted for extermination by Islamic extremists who know their roles in aiding the USA in victory.
On the other hand, perhaps, they may be presenting themselves as special for reasons that have no relation to the war. They may be special because they double-crossed their neighbor in a business deal, slept with someone else?s wife or stole someone?s car. After all, who knows?
Unfortunately, none of this receives much attention in Beth Murphy?s attempted fundraiser to provide green cards to thousands of Iraqis. The film spends almost no time elaborating on one of the testimonies in Congress to the effect that Iraq needs these people and we have no right to whisk them away to the USA. It is the same testimony that points out that if America grants blanket citizenship to everybody who claims to have assisted the US, the result would be a stack of applications that would reach to the ceiling.
After all, what were these people fighting for? If they were fighting for a better Iraq, which they won, why are they now so eager to leave it? The elephant in the room is that although they were helping America build a better Iraq, they were looking forward to getting out of Dodge at the same time.
Johnson, a Midwest native from the venerable small town of West Chicago, was part of the rebuilding team working out of the American Embassy and/or for the US Agency for International Development (USAID). In the course of his work, he made use of a number of Iraqis who helped the USA in a number of ways. Not knowing exactly how they helped out, it is hard for the audience to say whether they deserve admittance into America for their bravery or, instead, deserve exile on Elba as traitors, self-enriching criminals and/or mercenaries. That is the problem when the military, CIA and NSA run things; we pay them to lie and they do a very good job. As much as Johnson has his heart in the right place, he says nothing in this film to lead us to believe that he knows any more than we do about what these helpers actually did for us in Iraq.
Nor do we know how much danger they may be in. The two main pieces of evidence in the film are a hand-written note saying some unknown person is going to kill a former USAID consultant and a dead dog, supposedly killed by Islamic thugs as a threat. For this, we are throwing aside immigration laws? For a man with a father in Chicago politics, Johnson must not have spent much time in the trenches.
Although Johnson?s heart definitely is in the right place, in this film he comes off as being naïve. Couched in amongst the excellent archival footage of the war in Iraq and the undeniably real and lethal footage of terrorists, there is an elephant in the viewfinder. It is understood that operatives of the US security apparatus have discussed these issues with him and let him know what can be discussed in public and what cannot. What is left in this film is bereft of any meaningful evidence that supports his case. The audience is left with the option of trusting him (after all, he looks so honest) or falling back on our general knowledge of mercenaries and double agents. They are well paid and expected to look after their own affairs when their job is over.
In any event, the film is a good documentary of the war. You will have to see it yourself and come to your own conclusions based on what is shown, and what you believe.