In this striking documentary shot in 2003, early on in the US-led war on Iraq, a group of American soldiers in Baghdad who have taken over a bombed-out palace that belonged to Uday Hussein, the son of Saddam Hussein, offer the camera a view on their world.
While they party poolside for most of the day and lead raids on homes of suspected bomb-builders most nights, they also have a lot to say about the war and their situation. Rapping to each other or to the camera, they use rhyme to speak their minds about various aspects of the war, their day-to-day duties, and life in Iraq.
Their youth and immaturity is striking, as is the war itself and the nebulous reasons that they are stationed there. While the primary purpose of GUNNER PALACE is to give the perspective of the soldiers, secondarily viewers get a glimpse of Iraqi civilians and how they react to the US military presence–some are terrified, others are skeptical, still others are compliant and grateful if not totally sure why.
However, giving voice to the soldiers remains the film’s major theme, and for this reason, filmmakers Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein appealed the original R-rating given to the film by the MPAA, and won.
With a PG-13 rating, filmmakers explained, teenagers considering military careers can watch the film and benefit from seeing soldiers in combat and hearing them talk about what it’s like.