By Reggie Ellis
"WMD" the movie, or "Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Murderous Reign of Saddam Hussein," is coming soon to a theatre near you. And by soon they mean tomorrow!
Brad Maaske, Exeter native and Visalia native who produced the film, finalized negotiations with the Fox Theatre in Visalia to show the film at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. tomorrow, Oct. 7, the same day it is set to premier in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Tickets are $10 and are available at the theatre's box office at 308 W. Main St. in Visalia. Box Office hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The film was announced in an exclusive interview with Maaske on the front page of the Sept. 8 issue of The Exeter Sun. The film is a 90-minute to two-hour documentary detailing the atrocities the Iraqi people have suffered and why it was necessary to take military action to dethrone Hussein.
The human interest in the film is the story of Daniel Unger. The Ungers recently found a letter dated Sept. 12, 2001 that their son had written for an English project at Exeter Union High School. The students were assigned to write a letter addressed to their children and grandchildren explaining how they felt on Sept. 11. The following is an excerpt:
"I was glad when President Bush said we would 'hunt down and punish those responsible for this.' That makes me want to go into the military, so I could fight against these kinds of people (or a rescue team so I could help our hurt civilians). I also think that President Bush is a godly man and will do what is necessary to protect our nation. We are lucky to have this kind of leader for our country."
Daniel joined the National Guard a year later, as soon as he was 17 and a half, the minimum age to serve in the Armed Forces. A specialist in the 1st Battalion, 185th Armored Regiment, 81st Separate Armor Brigade, Alpha Company, Unger, then 19, was killed in Iraq during a mortar attack on May 25 about 25 miles south of Baghdad while saving the lives of two Iraqi civilians.
The film also gives an Iraqi perspective. In order to make a balanced film, Maaske purchased more than 135 hours of footage shot by director Jano Rosebiani, an Iraqi Kurd whose people were the prime targets of Hussein's genocidal mass graves.
Rosebiani's credits include "Jiyan" (2002), which tells the story of a 1988 Iraqi bombing raid that dropped mustard gas, nerve gas and cyanide on the small Kurdish town of Halabja killing 5,000 people within minutes. The title of the film is a Kurdish word meaning life, and the name of a female character who survived the attack and still lives in the area. His second film was the documentary "Mass Graves." Released in May, the film documents 272 sites discovered so far, containing 300,000 bodies and about the 1.2 million men, women and children who have been executed by Saddam's regime since 1975.
Maaske also included an interview with Michael Moore. Maaske said in the interview Moore admits using propaganda techniques to make his connections in his own film "Fahrenheit 9/11." Moore's film offers his view on the current presidency and where it has led the country in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001. An independent filmmaker, Moore also implies that the president rushed into the war with Iraq and avoided any conflict with the Saudis, who Moore claims funded Al Qaeda operations and contributed to Bush's campaign.
Similar to Moore, Maaske used his own money to fund the $250,000 production and nearly $1 million for the release of the film. He refused donations to avoid appearing partisan. That's where the similarities end as Maaske hopes his film will "show the truth" not discussed in Moore's film. Maaske has rushed the film through production to release it before the Nov. 2 election.