After the “Peshmerga”, “Battle for Mosul” was the second film that Bernard-Henri lévy (Bernard-Henri Lévy) dedicated to the Iraqi Kurds and their fight against “Islamic state” (banned in Russia — approx.ed.).
Filmed in the style of a military report: the shaky camera, the roar of fire, the evacuation of the wounded… It is a personal work of the author is not indifferent. A battle for Mosul, but not the first month of deadly street fighting Iraqi forces under the blows of the bombers IG (banned in Russia as a terrorist organization — approx.ed.) allowed them to win three quarters of the city, professionalism — all this is mentioned less than the nobility and disappointment of the Kurdish fighters who remained behind in the battle after the liberation of the suburbs. Anyway, we have a movie with a great plans and voice-over, writer and philosopher, an epic ode, which he dedicated to the chosen profession, the struggle of the Iraqi Kurds.
Le Figaro: Why this film?
Bernard-Henri lévy: a continuation of the “Peshmerga,” which was filmed near Mosul, like a certain forbidden object, black mirror. “Battle for Mosul” somewhat dispels the Mirage and nestles into its territory. This is a subjective film with my first person narrative. I’m not a journalist, and a writer who goes to the scene, risking it in his head. In other words, I do not pretend to neutrality. I created not impartial a film that defends a certain thing and, like its predecessor, takes a clear position in a larger fight…
— What is this fight?
— Of course, the fight against jihadism. That is fascism of our time. It all started after the terrorist attacks in Paris. I said to myself: “emergency planetary scale. You need to destroy the new Nazism, as my father’s generation had destroyed the last”. For this good by any means. Military if you are military words, if you are a speaker. Visual range, if you’re a photographer or Director. Thus, this film is my contribution to the struggle.
— Victory is coming?
Yes. Because the international community has apparently finally realized that the murderers are exceptionally strong by our weaknesses and fluctuations. The aura of invincibility of the jihadists was just weird to watch! Some media have also contributed to this. As the number of intellectuals who have argued that ISIS is so strong and scary that it would be better to negotiate with him. Nothing of the sort. The bubble bursts. Jihadists are paper tigers. I try to show this in the film. I must say that just outraged often sounding allegations that Islamists are superior to the West, because they are willing to die for Jihad we have no more strength to defend our values. But look at the Western special forces, NGO representatives, journalists and especially the Kurds, who formed battalions of this great army of freedom. They risk everything to protect their values. And I wanted to show it.
But not this war is conducted largely by the hands of the allies? Directly fighting the Iraqis and the Kurds.
— Yes, of course. But not only them. For example, I took American special forces in a Christian area Mortally. This is a rare footage, because the Americans usually against shooting. But they are very important. The fact is that without a nod and logistical help from the West, without the US and France to end the criminal farce of the “Islamic state”, there would be the battle for Mosul.
The Kurds occupy a Central position in this film, as in “Peshmerga”. Do you think that Baghdad did not allow the Kurds to battle for Mosul for political reasons?
Not only Baghdad, a coalition including Washington. On the battle for Mosul hovers a large shadow, the shadow of Iran. It seems to me that the desire to please Tehran has pushed the White house to stop the Kurds at the gates of the city. Obama wanted the “Iran deal” became the Central element of his legacy. And part of the seemingly incomprehensible decisions can be traced a similar course. Incredible and catastrophic decision of 29 August 2013, to abandon the strikes on Bashar al-Assad, even though he broke the red line of chemical weapons use… the Turning from Israel to the end of the mandate… Finally, the desire to allow Iraqis from Baghdad, that is the main allies of Iran in the region, to all political and military dividends from victory…
— Mosul managed to get faster with the support of the Kurds?
— I think so. First of all, because they are braver. Further, as I said, they know what you’re fighting. This is the famous question by Frank Capra (Frank Capra) 1943: Why we fight?” Soldiers in Baghdad, the Shiites are for the most part, still not the best way to imagine it. What to say about the Kurds. But they were asked not to participate. This is the penultimate scene of the film. It is one of the most heroic generals of the Peshmerga Sirwan Barzani is a few kilometers from the closed to him in the city. He says: “If I’ll let go, I’ll go…”
— In addition, he says he’ll do it in exchange for the independence of Kurdistan.
Is less you can ask for. First, the Kurds have stopped ISIS. They are more than two years almost single-handedly fought back the barbarians. Now this forgotten and dedicated people, who are now age give never restrained promise, said: “Enough! We are ready to become the guardians of peace, his sword and shield, but we finally have our place in the community of Nations!” Frankly, this requirement seems to me to be quite legitimate. Since ancient times, from Henri de Blanville (Henri de Boulainvilliers) to Michel Foucault (Michel Foucault), we say that the nation created in the blood of battles. But now, when the struggle in the once noble, we deny them baptism?
— You, much less respect for victims of the Iraqi forces and in particular the Gold division, whose soldiers you call unorganized “Rambo”, which shoot anywhere. It really is a methodical and effective military that liberated, leaving behind many bodies of comrades, block by block, the whole of the East of Mosul and is now fighting in the West of the city. Don’t you think it’s biased and even unfair?
— I shoot what I see. And show what you have shot. There is, of course, there are the methodical military, and we showed it in the movie. Nevertheless, we, along with my operators Kamiyem Lotto (Camille Lotteau), Olivier Zhaken (Olivier Jacquin) and Ala Tayyip saw Iraqi soldiers shooting into the milk, lose the occupied areas, etc. We have seen a ghostly army roaming the streets of the ruined neighborhoods that she failed to protect. Finally, it is reminiscent of IG’s attitude to death… It is also in the Gold division.
— Do not you think that everything is a little exaggerated? A few skulls on clothing risking the lives of soldiers and the swastika on the shirt. This is enough to become SS?
— I showed a swastika. But we actually took them a lot more.
— The Peshmerga not unhealthy attitude toward death?
— “Peshmerga” means “those who look death in the face”. To challenge her. To defeat her. Not to praise. They do not hear “long live death,” as among some of the fighters of Shiite from Baghdad.
— You say you don’t like war, although this theme runs through all your movies and some of your books. The paradox or contradiction?
— No, I do not like war. But I love greatness. I love the moments in people’s lives, when they rise above themselves. And I have to admit, war is sometimes getting to that push. I’ve always had a weakness for great adventurers: Garibaldi, Byron, Lawrence, and Malraux, in some way, Xenophon and his “Anabasis”. But it seems to me that greatness can be awakened in every human being, and not only in transcendental grants, which, according to Kantorovich, are kings and standing next to them. That is why I went to the soldiers in Bangladesh, the defenders of Sarajevo, to the Libyan rebels. Today, the Kurds…
— This open choice of the parties leaves behind the complexity of the battle for Mosul with the Shiite militia, the rivalry between Shiites and Sunnis, ambiguous situation in the international coalition that sided with the allies of Iran?
— I think it’s all there. But in passing. Without the stop. Take the first battle. In the village of Fazlija we get ambushed ISIS. A horrible fight. People are dying. But the support of American aircraft arrives, despite the appeals of our comrades. Here it is — the “ambiguity” of the coalition.
Shooting changed your attitude to the situation?
I want to tell you that the biggest blow has become a “metaphysical” shock. Because Mosul is the new name for ancient Nineveh. Nineveh of the prophet Jonah. The city of crime and evil, the appeal of which is located in the heart of the thinking of Jews and Christians about the atonement and the oneness of the human race. I was so taken in by this story. I’ve been thinking about the interpretations of the Malbim, Vilna Gaon, Gershom Salema, St. Augustine and St. Jerome. For me it was a shock to physically be in the same magnetic pole, in the shadow of the millennial words that are in the soul of each of us. The battle for Mosul there is a spiritual dimension. 3 thousand years later, this was the second fall of local empires.
It seems that you are always in search of fight you want to support. This explains why you consistently looking for the camp of goodness in opposition to evil?
— I would say that looking for the camp of the lesser evil. Because really don’t believe in goodness. Anyway, I’m not an impartial observer, and not erect neutrality in religion. In my military reports, both written and filmed, I’m interested in primarily civilians, victims and those who by circumstances risk their lives for their protection. For example, I would not be able to make a film about the victorious army. I wouldn’t risk it, if we were talking about the lighting “normal” war. There is one famous military writer, who absolutely did not cause my interest: Caesar with his “Gallic war.” Looking at Europe of the last century, not to mention two very big names. Malaparte “Kaputt” is transferred from the Warsaw ghetto to the table of the Governor General of Poland Hans Frank and the basket with the eyes of the Croatian dictator Ante Pavelic. Malraux was built “Hope” as a Roman in the service of the case of the Republicans, who, he said, waged war without loving it. I admire both, although I, of course, is closer to Malraux.