Gunner Palace

Gunner Palace

2004, NR, 85 min. Directed by Petra Epperlein, Michael Tucker.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., March 18, 2005

It isn’t quite the Eagle’s Nest, but the members of 2/3 Field Artillery (nicknamed "the Gunners") must have felt they were part of something historic when they moved into the weekend party palace of Uday Hussein. Not many other units stationed in Iraq could call a presidential palace – fully loaded with a pool, golf course, and stocked fishing pond – their home away from home. Documentarian Michael Tucker, who lived with the regiment for two months, enjoys full access to the Gunners, from their poolside antics to the far more sobering responsibilities of patrolling the streets of Baghdad and conducting night raids. Gunner Palace begins shortly after "major combat" has been declared over and done with; if this mostly objective document has one point to make, it is that "minor combat" is an oxymoron. Gunner Palace succeeds as a series of snapshots of the post-war landscape, in which soldiers are now tasked to function as "policemen, social workers, and truant officers." One of the biggest dangers plaguing them are roadside bombs, which can be planted anywhere. Tucker’s camera watches as traffic is held up for 15 minutes in order for troops to secure a plastic bag. A soldier shakes his head at the ludicrousness of the scene, but we are reminded here and throughout: What happens when that plastic bag isn’t just a plastic bag? The answer’s obvious enough, and indeed, several of Gunner Palace’s interviewees suffer injury, even death. The news of their deaths is shocking, if statistically inevitable; however, the filmmakers somewhat mishandle this news. With so many soldiers interviewed, some only fleetingly, it’s impossible to keep track of them all; the name of a dead soldier did not register with me, although I’m sure his face would have. Gunner Palace has the ability to personalize these deaths (something the American public, largely shielded from this war, has not been confronted with), and in this instance the filmmakers drop the ball, lending further, tragic credence to one soldier’s address to the audience: "For y’all this is just a show, but we live in this movie."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Petra Epperlein Films
The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair
Documentary from the filmmakers who made Gunner Palace details the story of Yunis Abbas, an Iraqi journalist falsely detained for nine months at Abu Ghraib.

Marrit Ingman, March 30, 2007

More by Kimberley Jones
We Have an Issue: Getting Into the Weeds
We Have an Issue: Getting Into the Weeds
Celebrate 420 with our dive into Luck Presents, cannabis culture and reform, and some locally made CBD products to mellow you right out

April 16, 2021

We Have an Issue: The Revolution Will Be Embroidered
We Have an Issue: The Revolution Will Be Embroidered
In this week’s cover story, Jessi Cape explores the resistance potential in cross stitch

April 9, 2021


Gunner Palace, Petra Epperlein, Michael Tucker

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle