While not exactly uncharted documentary territory, the Iraq conflict is thought-provokingly portrayed in “Mosul,” an up-close-and-personal examination of recent events that puts a human face on a land that remains vulnerable as a result of clashing ideologies.
Seen through the eyes of Ali Maula, an Iraqi journalist who was embedded with militia during the liberation of Mosul from the grip of Islamic State, one neighborhood at a time, Daniel Gabriel’s first feature adroitly traces the region’s history of instability via compelling characters and startling images.
Among the former is the colorful contradiction that is Um Hanadi, a widowed female Sunni commander of an all-male Shiite army unit, and Nasser Issa, a shackled Islamic State recruiter who coolly assures Maula that his cause will easily outlive him.
Meanwhile, a decimated field populated by sheep is blackened by the dense, perpetual smoke caused from barrels of sulfur being emptied by Islamic State fighters into a well and ignited, effectively choking off all vegetation.
That dark cloud ultimately serves as an-all-too fitting metaphor for the region itself, where an Islamic State resurgence could at any time exploit that persistent sectarian divide.
“I had begun to doubt my instincts in a world where nothing is what it seems,” says Maula through his English-language narrator, grappling with a complex journey that offered plenty of passionate rhetoric but little in the way of viable solutions.
Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Playing: Starts Friday, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills