Going to coffee can result in getting a lot of work done quickly. Not just because I become caffine-charged. Because I meet folks that I need to talk with. Today as I was wondering how to get the mini-conference and discussions about the documentary Occupation: Dreamland going I ran into two of the people that are essential to making that a success.

Briefly about Occupation: Dreamland. It’s a soldier-focused documentary about men in the 82nd Airborne in Iraq.

The official word says:

Occupation: Dreamland is an unflinchingly candid portrait of a squad of American soldiers deployed in the doomed Iraqi city of Falluja during the winter of 2004. A tense and grimly humorous study of the soldiers unfolds as they patrol an environment of low-intensity conflict creeping steadily towards catastrophe. Through the squad’s activities Occupation: Dreamland provides a vital glimpse into the last days of Falluja. The film documents the city’s waning stability before a final series of military assaults began in the spring of 2004 that effectively destroyed it.

Occupation: Dreamland chronicles the escalating tension between its two main characters: the squad and the city. Beholden as they are to differing languages and worldviews the two antagonists collide repeatedly. A distinct sense of unease grows as the chain of misunderstanding and distrust tightens. Daylight patrols on bustling downtown streets turn from casual conversation to brief, confusing firefights while nighttime raids reveal a local populace caught in the middle. The narrative follows a downward spiral of civil destabilization and personal frustration, borne by individuals trapped on both sides.

Filmmakers Garrett Scott and Ian Olds were given access to all operations of the Army’s 82nd Airborne. They lived with the unit 24/7, giving voice to soldiers held under a strict code of authority as they cope with an ambiguous, often lethal environment. The result is a revealing, sometimes surprising look at Army life, operations and the complexity of American war in the 21st century.

First, I ran into Bill Balthrop who is just done being Chairman of Communication Studies and is a specialist in rhetoric and cultural practice. Bill and I will be co-sponsors of the mini-conference. He knows more about all the issues than I ever will and others in his department like Cori Dauber (especially) will make a big difference in the quality of what we can set up. Full steam ahead here!

Next, I ran into Tom Rankin who is director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke. We have a couple of Tom’s films online as part of the Folkstreams.net project. Tom’s Center was just involved in an NPR production called “Married to the Military.” Obviously we want to work together on the mini-conference.

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