In the past, Hollywood was sometimes enlisted to tell an approved version of military events. Lately, though, stories on screens both large and small have begun to show more nuanced accounts of war from different and often more critical perspectives.
Now a new eight-part miniseries may help us understand a key moment in the war in Iraq, the 2004 attack on Sadr City.
Raddatz says the entire series was shot at Fort Hood.
“They constructed a 12-acre replica of Sadr City, Iraq that is so realistic,” she says. “I mean I seriously would walk down the set and find myself making sure there were no bombs.”
Raddatz says the attack was a real turning point in the war. The story begins on April 4, 2004, when newly arrived U.S. troops thought they were going on a peacekeeping mission.
“When this unit rolled in and took over the command, which happened minutes before this ambush happened, they were completely surprised,” she says. “Most of the heavy armor had been left back in Fort Hood. So you had 19 men on a patrol who were ambushed and the ambush turned into a citywide assault on American forces. All the rescue teams that when in to try to get those 19 men out of there were attacked. And then meanwhile back home in Fort Hood, these families who didn’t expect any violence started getting word about how many soldiers had died, how many soldiers were wounded.”
She says the battle scenes in the film are mind-blowingly realistic.
“I think the nuance in this is incredible,” she says. “It’s even greater than in the book.”
Raddatz says what really sets the series apart are the characters.
“They’re not the Navy SEALs,” she says. “They are not depicted as action figures. They are depicted as they should be, as real human beings who just left their minivans in Texas and are now in the middle of a fight for their lives.”
She says the series also tells the story of the families back home in Texas, who may have suffered even more than the troops.
“It was the soldiers who said, ‘If you think we’ve got it bad, you should talk to our families,’” she says.
The series premieres November 7 on the National Geographic Channel.
Written by Jen Rice.