FULL BATTLE RATTLE (2008) – Retroview by Jennifer Merin

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It’s Disneyland For War Games.

Somewhere in the Mohave Desert, the U.S. military maintains a large rural compound that contains several fake Iraqi towns. It’s Fort Irwin, and it’s here that American soldiers are sent to practice battle tactics and learn to deal with Iraqi people before their deployment to Iraq. The towns look real enough, with accurate street plans and architecture. And, they’re inhabited by a full cast of Arabic-speaking actors playing mayor, rebel, Sunni, Shiite, terrorist, loyalist, wife, mother, teenage boys and girls, grocer and all the other characters who’d live in a real Iraqi town.

The Drama of Occupation

Under the leadership of their commanding officer, the soldiers engage in all sorts of peaceful if uneasy interactions with the townsfolk. They buy goods, give away presents, chat, caution people about what they may and may not do. They search homes, patrol, set up road blocks and perimeters. When battles erupt, some soldiers are wounded, and some locals are killed. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).