May 14, 2018  (Web Review)


(2017) 60 min. DVD: $24.99 ($54.99 w/PPR). PBS Video ( SDH captioned. ISBN: 978-1-5317-0374-5.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

In 2014, the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS) conquered and occupied Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, declaring a caliphate and instituting a harsh system of sharia law. After a prolonged period of confusion and hesitation, Iraqi troops and their allies, with U.S. backing, began a bloody war to retake the city, a campaign marked by bitter house-to-house fighting. Filmmakers James Jones and Olivier Sarbil’s PBS-aired Frontline documentary Mosul takes viewers inside the hellish combat, which included ISIS’s brutal use of human shields, suicide bombers, car bombs, snipers, and drones. Iraq’s army was also accused of human rights abuses, and opposing soldiers were hard to identify (by the end of the battle 20,000 civilians had been killed). Iraqi soldiers, buoyed by bravado, declared that it was a “dream come true” to kill ISIS “infidels,” with the campaign no more traumatic than a “wedding party.” But like most soldiers, the Iraqis evolved into a force of brothers in arms, deeply mourning the loss of comrades. The city was finally liberated after 266 days, but the once vibrant community was left a total ruin. Also included on the disc is the Frontline documentary Inside Yemen, with correspondent Martin Smith presenting a brief but trenchant look at the overlooked war in Yemen, which pits a Saudi-led coalition against Houthis rebels and their Iranian backers. Since the Houthis takeover, this already poor country has suffered from a collapsed banking system and infrastructure, a demolished airport, minimal healthcare with rampant disease, and hunger. Brutality is common on both sides, but Yemenis blame the United States for supplying weapons to the Saudis. Although the gut-wrenching war violence is hard to watch, this current events documentary double-feature is recommended. Aud: C, P. (S. Rees)