#UNITED WE WIN, UK
Played at the May 2016 FEEDBACK Film Festival
Half dangerous, hald brave and wholly compelling, #UnitedWeWin, directed by Henrik Fiirs, is a documentary turned passionate love letter about the issues surrounding war-torn Iraq. Fiirs and a handful of other early twenty-somethings’ set out to the country with limited assistance from Global Security, to make a film about the middle eastern conflict, after a traumatic video witnessed by the director propelled him to act. The forty minute partial gorilla shooting endeavor is an interesting approach to cinematic filmmaking.
#UnitedWeWin has much to be commended on. The director, Fiirs, is a natural born leader, with charisma, charm and a clear thirst to make a social and political difference in the world around him. There is daring, drive and determination in his work, and it is no small feat to arrange a film crew and create a film, halfway around the world, not accounting for age, cost and resources.
However, there is a fine line between bravery and foolishness and Fiirs’ piece is not without heavy scrutiny. The film undeniably lacks focus and direction. Bold, emotive, larger-than-life statements litter the piece, such as “what is happening here is evil” and “we all know this isn’t right”. And yet, the social, political, religious and economic issues fueling the Middle-Eastern conflicts are never discussed. As such, the filmmaker glosses over the reason the fuel the film in the first place. The film has the feeling of a director looking for the answer, when he has no idea what the question is.
As a result, the goal of the film appears far too abstract and the stakes far too outrageously dangerous to be bought by the audience as a form of consciously planned, well thought-out activism. The film has no clear vision, no clear villains, no clear answers, no focused purpose and, most terrifying to the audience, no sense that the filmmaker and the team really understand how much danger they have put themselves in while making it.
Moving towards the film’s natural style creates some other notes for discussion. The continuity of the piece is rather shady, with whole days of the trip cut out and unaccounted for, and a series of unanswered cliff hangers. There is one scene that focuses on the team touching down in the Middle East and the transportation they arranged to pick them up from the airport is not there. The next major scene shows the team three days later, with no explanation of how the previous situation rectified itself. One section of the film, shot in a refugee camp, was very stylistically shot and edited- a choice that was not consistent with the rest of the film. The team clearly had the skills and the means to produce a film, but they did not produce a film with clear meaning.
Fiirs is a young, idealistic filmmaker, producing a heartfelt piece that displays empathy to the struggles of a population he clearly cares deeply for. On that note, he must be commended. He has a strong moral code, strong ideals and passionate desire to tell a story. But his cinematic journey did not hold up a mirror to the crisis in the Middle East, as much as it did hold up a mirror to young filmmakers’ everywhere, asking them to thoroughly understand that questions they are asking, before they risk their lives in finding the answers.
by Kierston Drier
Founder of The Bathroom Stall Project
Consultant at TheKayWorks.com
Freelance Film and Television
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