With astonishing cinematography by Olivier Sarbil, the story of the fight to re-take Mosul after more than two years of ISIS rule.
The people of Mosul endured the repressive rule of ISIS for more than two years. This is the story of the men who fought back – and defeated the Islamic State in their heartland.
In October 2016, an elite team of Iraqi Special Forces was tasked with leading the fight to drive ISIS from the city. It was the beginning of a brutal battle of attrition that was to last almost nine months.
Filmed over the course of the whole campaign, MOSUL follows the experiences of four young soldiers: Anmar, a college graduate seeking revenge after his father was victim of a suicide attack; Hussein, a ruthless sniper and aspiring soccer player; Jamal, a loyal sergeant; and Amjad, a young recruit excited to be on the frontline. Full of hope and at the beginning of the campaign, the soldiers are forced to confront the reality of fighting an elusive and vicious enemy in a city full of trapped civilians. By the end of the campaign, more than half of Anmar’s team have been killed or injured.
The film captures the impact of what a US general has called the toughest urban combat since the Second World War: daily fire-fights, suicide attacks and ambushes. Sarbil captures intimate moments of unbearable grief as friends are lost, but the soldiers are forced to keep fighting; moments when the men must choose between saving their comrades’ lives or rescuing civilians. As the fighting reaches its peak, one of their fellow soldiers is killed by an ISIS booby-trap. The team struggles to come to terms with the loss, and forces an innocent civilian to step into no-man’s land to draw out ISIS sniper fire. Hussein the sniper grimly collects photographs of scores of ISIS fighters he has shot. Jamal wakes up sobbing in the middle of the night. Then, when Mosul is just weeks away from being liberated, tragedy strikes.
In July 2017, the Iraqi Army declared victory over ISIS in Mosul. But it had come at a cost. Much of the city was destroyed, hundreds of thousands of civilians were displaced. And for the surviving soldiers, haunted by what they have seen and done, the war goes on.
Mosul was an ISIS stronghold: the city from which its leader pronounced the establishment of the Islamic State, the city from which its commanders called for terrorist attacks on the United States, the city from which militants were sent to kill civilians in European cities. The war against ISIS is a war that affects us all – and MOSUL is an unprecedented and intimate portrait of the men fighting it.
Directed by Olivier Sarbil
Co-directed and produced by James Jones
Produced by Dan Edge and Raney Aronson-Rath
Edited by Ella Newton
Music by Stew Jackson and Grant Marshall (Massive Attack)
PRODUCTION MANAGED BY PHILIPPA LACEY
MANAGING EDITOR: ANDREW METZ
A FRONTLINE PBS PRODUCTION IN ASSOCIATION WITH MONGOOSE PICTURES AND CHANNEL 4
WITH THANKS TO C4 NEWS, WHO ORIGINALLY COMMISSIONED OLIVIER IN OCTOBER 2016
Theatrical premier Los Angeles 25 August 2017
BROADCAST ON FRONTLINE PBS OCTOBER 2017
BROADCAST ON Channel4 UK NOVEMBER 2017
MOSUL: Why We Made A Film In The Most Dangerous Place On Earth
Written by James Jones
The battle to expel ISIS from the birthplace of its self-proclaimed Caliphate was described by a British general as “the toughest urban combat since the Second World War.”
My friend and colleague, the French cinematographer Olivier Sarbil, spent the best part of nine months on the front line of that brutal fight for Iraq’s second largest city. Olivier embedded with an Iraqi Special Forces squad of ten men. He was filming – and risking his life – for our new documentary, MOSUL.
Near the end of the battle I joined Olivier travelling across Iraq to track down the surviving soldiers. More than half of their squad had been...
Director - Olivier Sarbil
Olivier Sarbil is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, based in London. During the past decade he’s covered wars, conflicts and critical social issues across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Olivier documented the insurgency in southern Thailand, the long running ethnic conflicts in Myanmar and in 2010 was in Bangkok to cover the Thai military’s bloody crackdown on protesters. Since then he has filmed from the frontlines of the Libyan revolution as well as the war in Syria, the spillover of that conflict in Lebanon and Jordan and was in Gaza during the 2012 war with Israel. Olivier accompanied French troops deployed to combat jihadists in Mali and filmed in the Central African Republic at the height of the interethnic violence. He spent six months documenting the conflict in eastern Ukraine, from both sides of the battle lines and has extensively covered Europe’s refugee crisis and terror attacks access the region.
Olivier has recently won two Prix Bayeux awards, including Best Picture, for his work in Iraq. He also won the One World Media award and the Rory Peck Award this year.
Co-Director and Producer - James Jones
James Jones is an award-winning British documentary-maker. He has tackled difficult subjects like suicide in the military (Broken by Battle) and homelessness (Britain’s Hidden Housing Crisis), and focused on some of the world’s most dangerous and secretive places like North Korea (The Secret State of North Korea), Iraq (Secret Iraq), Gaza (Children of the Gaza War) and more recently, Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia Uncovered). His films have won two Emmys, two DuPonts, a Grierson, a Rory Peck, a Royal Television Society and been nominated five times at the BAFTAs. He has just completed Mosul, co-directed with Olivier Sarbil, which had its theatrical premier in Los Angeles in August 2017. Before that, his most recent work was the critically acclaimed feature-length documentary, Unarmed Black Male, which tells the story of a police shooting in America.
Producer - Dan Edge
Dan has has produced and directed films from all over the world, in the main for US investigative series FRONTLINE PBS, as well as for Channel 4, the BBC and HBO. He is now a senior producer for FRONTLINE PBS across their whole output.
His most recent film as a director, Last Days of Solitary, was a feature-length documentary for FRONTLINE telling the story of solitary confinement in US prisons. It was praised by critics as ‘revealing the dark truth of solitary’, ‘a harrowing visceral documentary’ and ‘unflinching and harrowing.’
Before that he filmed, produced and directed Outbreak – made during the height of the West African Ebola epidemic – for FRONTLINE and the BBC. The film won the BAFTA for best current affairs film, an Emmy, a Grierson and numerous other awards. In 2012, Dan travelled to Fukushima’s radioactive exclusion zone to film Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown for FRONTLINE and BBC2, which won an Emmy and an RTS Award for international current affairs. Prior to that, he made The Wounded Platoon for FRONTLINE and BBC2, an investigation into a string of murders by US soldiers returning from Iraq, which won a Peabody in the States and an RTS award in the UK. He filmed extensively in the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan for the Emmy award-winning PBS / C4 film Children of the Taliban, which broadcast in 2009.
In 2011 Dan was awarded the Peter McGhee Fellowship by WGBH, which honours an individual whose work reflects ‘excellence, intelligence, fairness, passion and scholarship’.
As a senior producer for FRONTLINE PBS, Dan has been lucky enough to help craft some extraordinary films, including James Bluemel’s Peabody-winning two-hour film on the refugee crisis, Exodus; Marcel Mettelsiefen’s searing film on the Syrian War, Children of Syria; Najibullah Quraishi’s Emmy-winning ISIS in Afghanistan, and James Jones’ hard-hitting investigation Saudi Arabia Uncovered.
Dan continues to direct films of his own, and lives with his family in the wilds of Oxfordshire.
"Stunner of a new documentary... Heart-pounding, intimate, you-are-there account... considered a contender for an Academy Award for Best Short Documentary... The intense, visceral footage is bracing enough, but the insight into the soldiers can be heart-scalding."
Globe and Mail
"Everyone should watch this. One of the most amazing war documentaries in years."
"Extraordinarily intimate... An astonishing portrait of urban combat, and a gripping reflection of the universal, eternal truth of warfare - that soldiers fight first and foremost for the soldiers alongside them."