ďPeople died because itís warĒ:
An interview with Elliot Ruiz,
star of Battle For Haditha
by David Allender | April 12, 2008
it okay to hate a movie before you've seen it? I hated Nick
Broomfieldís movie Battle For Haditha from the first few moments
into the seven-minute trailer.
But at least one Marine doesnít think Iím being fair.
Elliot Ruiz is the lead actor in the film. He plays Corporal
Ramirezóa character based on the real-life Staff Sergeant Frank
Ruiz was also a real Marine. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The war ended for him in April 2004 when an Iraqi drove a car
through barbed wire at a checkpoint, and the wire almost tore Ruizís
had a chance to talk this week while he drove his brother, who just
graduated from Marine boot camp, to Twenty-Nine Palms.
Defend Our Marines: You know, people, including me, are angry at
Elliot Ruiz: Yeah, Iíve been on DefendOurMarines.com. Thatís why
I wanted to do this interview. The thing is that nobodyís seen the
movie yet. From the trailer what they see is a bunch of Marines
killing all these innocent people. I want people to understand that
this is film isnít trying to incriminate the Marines.
Defend Our Marines: But your portrayal of the shooting at the
white taxi is cold-blooded murder. Your character shoots five Iraqis
who have their hands in the air. In reality, the shooting at the
white taxi was nothing like your portrayal. SSgt Wuterich was a good
distance away: his line of sight was blocked, another Marine almost
certainly fired the fatal shots. Forensics and testimony all tend to
corroborate statements that the Iraqis were moving away from the
Elliot Ruiz: The film is definitely a fictional portrayal. At no
point are we blaming the Marines for this. I wouldn't want to be
part of something that gave the Marine Corps a bad name. I saw what
the director, Nick Broomfield, was trying to do. Nick wasnít trying
to blame the Marines, Nick wasnít trying to blame the Iraqis. And it
wasnít just a two-sided story, he also showed how the innocent
Iraqis are caught in the middle between the military and the
insurgents. So heís actually showing three stories at once.
Defend Our Marines: I canít speak for the Wuterich family,
obviously, but I think theyíd probably appreciate it if you stressed
to the media that this is not a true story.
Elliot Ruiz: Obviously, nobody knows exactly what happened. I
did an interview on the BBC and I said that nobody would ever know
exactly what happened except for the people who were really there.
Itís shot as a docudrama style because thatís Nick style: he is a
documentary film maker.
Defend Our Marines: You depict deaths inside the houses as well.
Elliot Ruiz: We show things like a Marine throwing a grenade in
a room not knowing that it was full of kids. He wanted to clear the
room and make sure his friends were okay. Collateral damage, it
happens. Itís war. Weíre not going to sugarcoat anything. People
died because itís war. The film shows how some of those deaths might
Marine doesnít want to kick into a room but thereís people shooting
at him. In the film, there are two or three different people
shooting at the Marines. They donít know where the fire is coming
from, so, to be safe, they throw a grenade into a room and
unfortunately that room might have had kids in it.
whoís to blame for that?
great thing about this film is that it brings humanity to the
characters. You feel bad for my characteróeven though it shows him
killing the guys in the white taxi. You feel bad for my character
because you know deep down itís not his fault. Itís not his fault
that heís put in this situation.
wasnít trying to bash the Marine Corps or saying Marines killed all
these innocent civilians like Time magazine and that
congressman said. Itís real easy for people who sit behind a desk to
say something like that. To point their fingers when it doesnít
effect them or their families. Nick wanted to bring humanity to
these people even though what happened in the film is an inhumane
thing. You feel bad for them and you feel bad for the situation
theyíre put in.
Defend Our Marines: But the film is still based on false
allegations about real people. And that makes it confusing. Anyone
watching the film would probably think your portrayal is how it
Elliot Ruiz: Letís just say that if they did go in and kill
those people: who was really responsible? Should Wuterich be really
to blame for that? Who put them in that situation? Who is really to
blame for all this happening? Thatís what weíre trying to get to in
Defend Our Marines: Well, I find it hard to imagine that Marines
massacred people because I havenít seen any evidence that a crime
was committed in Haditha. But if I could imagine it, I would still
disagree with you. If a crime was committed, frankly, Iíd hold the
Marines responsible. And actually SSgt Wuterich himself has taken
responsibility for the actions of his squad. In real life, nobody
accused of crimes for Haditha is playing the punk card. Blaming
higher command or blaming President Bush or Dick Cheney or Donald
Rumsfeld is just playing anti-war politics.
Elliot Ruiz: But is it really the Marines fault? If they did do
it, is it really their fault?
People donít know the type of stresses of war we go through. People
donít know the type of war that weíre fighting. In the film we show
how an insurgent can set off an IED and walk past you and you donít
even know that was the guy who just killed your friend.
thatís what this film shows. The media doesnít show that. The media
doesnít show the types of things we go through. Nobody knows the
types of things that we go through. People can only imagine and see
what is fed to them on TVóthatís what they see. And thatís what
makes this film so great. It gives people a glimpse of the
day-to-day life we live out there. Being with friends, losing
friends, being put in leadership positions of all these young guys.
So now youíre not only stressed out that you might die out there,
but the fact that youíre in charge of all these Marines that if
donít get them home to their family, how are you going to feel?
it also shows how weíre just pawns in this war. How weíre being
used, how weíre being manipulated, it also shows how the innocent
Iraqis are being manipulated by the insurgents and how they use
propaganda videos. And it also shows the type of situations that
weíre placed in, the type of decisions weíre forced to make.
really, who was it that sent us in there? We werenít like, yeah, we
want to go into Iraq, we want to do this. Nobody wants to go and
fight, nobody wants to go and kill people. Thatís something that no
human wants to do. But thatís our job. People have to understand
thatís our job. Thatís what we do if we have to. We hope that we
never have to do something like that, but it happens. Itís war.
Defend Our Marines: Are you following the cases, the trials that
have been going on in Pendleton?
Elliot Ruiz: I have friends who are stationed at Pendleton and
theyíll call and update me. I go to DefendOurMarines.com. Thatís why
I was interested that you contacted me. Thereís so much on your site
to read about. Itís
overwhelming with the info.
know, thereís a lot of films out thereóI donít want to mention any
namesóbut thereís films out there that are showing the military as machines, they are out there killing, and
our film is
the opposite of that.
don't want to name names, but I saw one film at the Toronto
Film Festival that made me sick to my stomach. I was so
pissed off. We stood up before the entire audience, myself and
another guy in the Haditha film, and we stood up and said this is a
disgrace to the military, this is a slap in the face to the
military. People are going to see this film and think all Marines
and soldiers act like this. Itís just horrible the way the military
is depicted in it. Because of the director, and who he was,
everybody was in shock that we were talking to him like this. It was
a disgrace and we told him.
The media couldnít even believe it. They started
taking notes and taking pictures and he got pissed. He was throwing
his arms up and screaming, ďI did the research!Ē and all this other
stuff. And we just walked out quietly.
Defend Our Marines: So you are hoping people will take something
positive from Battle For Haditha?
just so much information in the film. I really hope people look past
the massacre or that actual scene where my character is killing
those people. I hope they really look past that and go see the film
and leave with at least an idea of the types of things these Marines
go through on a day-to-day basis. The film throws up three sides to
one story and it lets people decide for themselves who they feel is
responsible for an event that might have happened.
Battle for Haditha
will be shown at the Film Forum in New York City from Wednesday, May
7 to Tuesday, May 20.