The Human Shields

IssueJune - August 2004
Review by Melanie Jarman

In a somewhat eccentric version of a road movie, Human Shields follows the 25 people who left England on double decker buses on the eve of the invasion of Iraq.

Featuring plenty of interviews with the “shields”, the film shows some of the tensions and anxieties that inevitably began to unfold. Apart from a few admirable exceptions, the voices that we hear at the end of the film are not the same as those we heard at the beginning, illustrating how it was not necessarily those who spoke the loudest that were the most effective at seeing through the specific mission to have a presence at, for example, an Iraqi water plant. And, whatever your opinion of the effectiveness of their action, it is difficult not to be touched and inspired by the images of these well-intentioned campaigners as they are faced with the reality of bombings and the uncertainties of a conflict situation.

The film focuses very much on human stories and lacks analysis of the shields' strategy. As such it left me inspired by the individuals involved, but lacking understanding of the experience as a whole.

Was it likely that places were less bombed because of their presence? What feedback did the shields get from the political representatives that they contacted? How did they share their experiences on their return home? What lessons were learned for future scenarios? How did the shields justify accepting hospitality from Iraqi state representatives at the Iraqi Embassy in Turkey?

Still, it's a compassionate film that provides some introduction to a clearly challenging experience.

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