VICE News travels to one of the world's most dangerous war-torn regions in The Road to Fallujah, a searing account of the Iraqi battle to win back areas which have been overtaken by the Islamic State.
With brute force and merciless violence, ISIS has managed to capture much of the Anbar Province in recent years, including Mosul, Ramadi and Fallujah. Armed with a renewed sense of commitment and support from the United States and Shiite militants, Iraqi fighters are ready to reclaim these cities one village at a time.
Amidst a rain of gunfire and rocket explosions, VICE correspondents embed themselves with the Golden Division Special Forces unit as they make their way to the city of Hit, a strategic location that will allow for entry into the central ISIS stronghold of Fallujah. Along the way, their mission is complicated by more than just the threat of ISIS fighters. They also seek to root out anyone in the area who's collaborated with or provided assistance to the Islamic State, and they rely on the information provided to them by residents of each village to do so.
Ravaged by the oppression they've suffered under ISIS rule, many of the villagers look upon the security forces as saviors, and are more than willing to assist them in their mission. While these forces take a ruthless stance against those who empower the efforts of ISIS, they are also shown treating the other villagers and tribal elders with much respect and concern.
Maintaining stability in these villages after they are cleared of ISIS combatants will represent another great challenge, but for now the special forces have accomplished their immediate goal. The film shows us the process by which they take back the city of Hit - effectively cutting off the Islamic State supply routes - and ready themselves for entry into Fallujah. The prelude to that entry comes in the form of a fierce firefight, during which the cameraman remains stationed in a tank as eruptions of bullets and bombs resound nearby.
The Road to Fallujah gives us a front seat into a conflict rife with unspeakable cruelties and the constant threat of danger.