In an age of spin-doctored, government-approved news, Gunner Palace tells a story that the news won’t tell and politicians never sell: the uncensored truth about life in Iraq as seen through the eyes of the young American soldiers of the 2/3 Field Artillery, a group known as “The Gunners.” This December, the “fascinating and unsettling” (Glenn Whipp, LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS) Gunner Palace makes its Canadian broadcast premiere on The Documentary Channel, screening nightly at 8 p.m. from December 9 – 16.
In 2003, filmmaker Michael Tucker lived with “The Gunners” for two months in a bombed-out pleasure palace originally built by Sadaam Hussein for his high-living son Uday. Gunner Palace chronicles Tucker’s surreal life with the American soldiers who enjoy Uday’s pleasure palace during the day, lounging by the pool or shooting a few holes on his lush golf course; at night, they endure deadly mortar attacks, roadside bombs and aggressive sniper gunfire as they raid homes of suspected terrorists. The soldiers speak candidly—often rapping—about the reality of life during wartime. They share their opinions on soldiering and life in Iraq easily and honestly with the camera, and from this honesty a larger truth emerges. The youth—and immaturity—of the soldiers is quite striking, especially when they try to articulate their hazy reasons for being there. The reaction of Iraqi civilians to the American soldiers is striking as well, and marked by inconsistency; some civilians are clearly terrified, others are welcoming, and still others remain suspicious. But this film is not about the Iraqi people, or even the political aspects of war. Tucker’s intention with this film was to give the soldiers a forum for unfiltered expression, and on that end he clearly succeeds. Because Tucker makes no attempt to control events unfolding in front of the camera, the story is free to take unlikely turns and reveal new truths. This cinéma verité approach gives Gunner Palace its power and makes it an “… eye-opening documentary that will confirm and confound both right and left “ (David Ansen, NEWSWEEK) and “a welcome antidote to the self-convinced rhetoric of pundits and politicians.” (A.O. Scott, NEW YORK TIMES)
For one week each month, The Documentary Channel ensures that viewers—no matter what their schedule—get a convenient chance to see some of the most heart-wrenching, spirit-lifting, side-splitting stories ever put on film. Each month features one key feature-length film, screened every night over the course of one week. The featured film may be a huge box office hit or it may be one of the most talked-about titles from the festival circuit. December’s featured film is the box office hit, Gunner Palace; January’s title is The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.