DVD Review: Someone Else's War (PBS version)

May 9, 2011

More than 50,000 low-wage workers from South and Southeast Asia are caught up in a war that has nothing to do with them. These “third-country nationals” are doing the dirty work to support the United States military in Iraq and Afghanistan, cleaning toilets, doing laundry and serving food. Lee Wang’s short documentary, which aired on PBS last year, focuses on those who are lured to work in Iraq under dangerous conditions, often without any idea what they’re getting into. The film highlights one aspect of the privatization of war: the hiring by military contractors of janitors and cooks from places like the Philippines, India and Nepal instead of higher-cost workers from the US. The filmmaker goes to the Philippines —  a country with massive poverty —  to collect stories about such workers and explains the context in which one in eight Filipinos go abroad to find employment. It’s yet another tale of exploitation, but told in a way that is nuanced. Wang’s debut documentary puts a human face on the label of “cheap labor” and goes directly to the workers and their family members to hear their perspectives. The film includes excellent investigative reporting, including footage smuggled out of Iraq by Halliburton employees.

Directed by Lee Wang

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Momo Chang

Senior Contributing Editor

Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media, and freelances for magazines, online publications, and weeklies. Her writings focus on Asian American communities, communities of color, and youth culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Her stories range from uncovering working conditions in nail salons, to stories about “invisible minorities” like Tongan youth and Iu Mien farmers. She has freelances The New York Times, WIRED, and East Bay Express, among other publications.