Gunner Palace (USA; 85 min.)

directed by: Petra Epperlein; Michael Tucker
IGunner Palace
Michael says: "There are some films that are powerful and fascinating to see even if they’re not really films I would say were impressively made. CASUISTRY: THE ART OF KILLING A CAT, which I saw at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival is one of those films. GUNNER PALACE, a first feature documentary by the directing team of Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker is another. Tucker, manning the camera, spent several weeks a few months after Bush declared the war in Iraq won, with the American soldiers of the 2/3 Field Artillery living in the bombed out pleasure palace of the Iraqi regime. Over the course of the film Tucker chronicles the day-to-day lives of these soldiers, many just out of high school from rural American towns growing closer to them and more involved with their lives. The unique, unprecedented access provides for powerful footage, not in a shocking way, but with a cumulative effect that hit me strongly after the film was over. Tucker also does a good job avoiding overt politics in this politically charged arena.

"Two major flaws of GUNNER PALACE are Tucker’s voice-over narration, where he intentionally speaks in neutral, disaffected tones to keep emotion out of his voice (it’s a choice that while understandable, fails), and an odd scene midway through the film where Tucker leaves Iraq for a time and returns home, pulling himself and his life, too strongly and awkwardly into the film. A more skilled director could have handled the latter more gracefully and to greater effect. Still, despite these flaws, and a lack of coherence (again possibly intentional… we can’t say) I was affected by this film and thus, give it 3 cats."