In Operation Filmmaker, director Nina Davenport devotes her life to covering the story of Iraqi Muthana Mohmed, but her film all seems like a big mistake. Increasingly, as we witness our unpleasant “hero” upset everyone else’s applecart, we want the “operation,” and the operator, to just stop.
Davenport introduces us to Mohmed after his appearance on MTV inspires actor-director Liev Schreiber to fly him from wartime Iraq to beautiful Prague to be a production assistant on a major motion picture. During his stint as a gofer on the set of Everything Is Illuminated in 2004, Mohmed becomes disenchanted with his lowly status and soon annoys his bosses. Despite his resentful attitude, the producers help Mohmed stay in Prague for a period beyond the shoot. They are particularly moved by Mohmed’s claim that his life would be in danger if he returned to Iraq.
Eventually, Mohmed gets another visa to stay in Europe and finds work on the set of another production, Doom, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. This time, Mohmed learns to play the game better and forges a kinship with some of the cast and crew. Johnson even honors Mohmed with a gift: a scholarship at a film school in London. Now Mohmed gets a chance to live his stated dream of becoming a filmmaker. At the same time, Mohmed wants to halt the documentary about him, despite the fact Davenport has helped the young man, including giving him a considerable amount of money.
After literally throwing Davenport out of his London flat and stealing some of her equipment and footage, Mohmed agrees to do one more interview with her. But a nagging question remains—has he or Davenport learned anything from their experience?
Some of the regard for Mohmed is understandable—he is charismatic and photogenic. But his charm wears thin as his scheming emerges. Of course, it is possible that Mohmed is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, but that doesn’t give him the right to manipulate everyone in his orbit. Still, one after another, directors, producers, actors, talent agents, immigration officials, and especially the masochistic Davenport are taken in by the young man. Operation Filmmaker reveals the gullibility of all these well-meaning (mostly liberal) types who want to relieve their Western guilt by helping a man they believe is a victim of war (although Mohmed initially expresses high regard for the invasion and George W. Bush).
Despite the dubious moral of the film and on-the-fly camera technique, it is interesting to watch the pathetic story unfold. Ironically, as much as we might end up disliking Mohmed, he is perfectly suited to swim among the sharks of Hollywood. Despite his burning lots of bridges, making a jerk of himself and demonstrating very little real talent at anything, there is no doubt we will see him “make it” someday (probably running a studio).