Nick Broomfield adds his voice to the wave of films on modern warfare and terrorism with Battle For Haditha. It is a stirring piece of cinema verite that premiered in Toronto last autumn and will air on March 17 as part of Channel 4's Iraq season in the UK, and sees its UK DVD launch that day via Contender.
The UK film-maker employed a typically unflinching storytelling style to re-enact an alleged retaliatory massacre of 24 Iraqi innocents by US Marines in November 2005, after their comrade was killed by a roadside bomb. The film shot from February to May 2007 in Jordan using small crews of five or six people with handheld cameras.
It is Broomfield's follow-up to another reality-inspired narrative feature, Ghosts (2006), about Chinese immigrants working in the UK.
Haditha, a $2m Lafayette Film, HanWay and Film 4 co-production, employed little-known actors and actual Marines, including Elliot Ruiz who served in the war until he was injured when a car ran a checkpoint.
'I wanted to make a film about the language of war and look at the language of this incident,' Broomfield says. 'I didn't want to take a judgmental stance. I wanted to get past this banner word 'insurgent' and look at who they are and what they do, as well as the poor people caught up in the middle.
'The Marines in our film wouldn't have wanted to be in anything that showed them not sticking up for the Corps,' Broomfield adds.
Conversely, there was early concern in Jordan that this was going to be an anti-Iraqi film. 'When the Jordanians saw what we were doing, they were happy. They were incredibly supportive.'
The producers made the actors playing Marines sleep in a makeshift barracks to build up a sense of camaraderie, and Broomfield used a real Iraqi family to portray the residents caught in the maelstrom.
The film-maker wrote a detailed outline and encouraged the cast to improvise when the camera rolled - the action sequences were carefully choreographed but were mindful not to fall foul of contempt laws because the hearings into the Haditha deaths are ongoing.
'I'm not out to get anybody,' he says. 'These things are an inevitable outcome of war. If I were to blame anybody, it would be Bush and his administration. The Marines are the scapegoats and are taking the rap for a very unpopular war.'
Broomfield's son Barney has co-directed an investigative documentary about the Haditha incident called On That Day, also airing on March 17 on the More4 channel.