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In Iraq, a nation short on conspicuous unfanatical heroes, filmmaker Laura Poitras has located an unexpected one: a middle-class Baghdad doctor and politician who’s a member of the Sunni establishment that prospered under Saddam Hussein. This remarkable documentary, filmed over eight months beginning in June 2004, travels the country during preparations for the January 2005 national-assembly elections. Poitras films Americans inside the Green Zone, vowing to legitimize the plebiscite by reaching “Joe Iraqi”; Aussie “private security” officers (i.e., mercenaries) buying AK-47s by the hundreds in Kurdistan; and New York Times reporter Edward Wong, who leads My Country back to where it started: Dr. Riyadh, a candidate for the assembly whose party has, inconveniently, decided to boycott the election. When not providing medical care at his free clinic, Riyadh is summoned to help his friends and neighbors, trying to free a preteen boy who’s been swept into Abu Ghraib Prison and advising a fellow physician whose son has been kidnapped. At home, Riyadh’s wife and four daughters may dress like obedient Muslim women, but they don’t hold their tongues; his girls joke about the physical risks of voting for Dad, and their mom vehemently denounces Riyadh and his friends for supporting Hussein as he undermined the country. Poitras’ approach can be a little too cryptic, so it’s a relief when Wong appears, actually asking Riyadh some direct questions rather than mutely observing. Still, the director’s unobtrusive technique—she worked without a crew, handling film and sound herself—pays off with powerfully revealing footage. Though a 90-minute film can’t be a complete portrait of occupied Iraq, this one does show a lot more than all the “embedded” documentaries and news coverage that embrace the blinkered outlook of confused U.S. troops. Accompanied by Iraqi émigré Kadhum Al Sahir’s keening songs, My Country My Country sometimes feels like an elegy. Yet it’s also a forceful corrective to the usual through-the-gunsight view of a people who were invaded, as is now widely acknowledged, for no good reason.—Mark Jenkins