The Search for Humanity Gets Confused in Act of War

Kenning Brichford
February 22, 2015

The story of Confusion Through Sand (2013) opens with American soldiers dropping into a desert town in the Middle East. When surveying the quiet town for enemy forces, a man runs into the soldiers while carrying a goat; a look of terror covering his face. The civilian runs off while being chased by a rocket-propelled-grenade that explodes in the alley which throws the whole scene into a sandstorm.

The protagonist soldier has lost his teammates and returns to where the goat owner lay dead from gunshot wounds; while the goat wails in agony clinging to life. Upon escaping incoming fire, the soldier breaks through a window and lands next to an enemy mine about to go off. He seems to close his eyes and accept his fate, but he changes his mind and lunges away. This is followed by another chaotic sandstorm from the explosion.

In the confusion of dust and wind, the soldier begins shooting his rifle in all directions angrily hoping for the enemy to come out and fight him face-to-face. The dust settles to a close up shot on the soldier's angry face and shifts to the goat who now lays dead in the alley. He limps down the alleyway and gets shot from the side. Falling to the ground and gasping in pain, he loads his weapon and fires back in the direction of the enemy.

The film ends with the soldier lying next to the man he had just killed. The two of them fade into the sand with a distant sound of the helicopter making its return.

Though camouflaged in the trials of war, this film represents the trials of humanity, and even that of life in general.

Confusion Through Sand depicts the same principals in the animals as are seen in the humans. The bird that entered the scene toward the beginning of the film foreshadows the events that will unfold for the protagonist soldier. They both were found wandering the streets alone looking for their place to be [0:58] [3:07].

The solider nearly meets the same demise of the goat caught in the heat of battle, struggling near life's end [4:56] [8:08]. The difference between the two characters is that the solider had the strength to fight back for himself whereas the goat—and his owner—did not have that same strength.

The use of soundtrack through ambient sounds and background music really drives the story forward. Even without dialog, the emotions of the characters and the action of the scenes can be fully experienced because of the intricate use of sound to portray these components. In addition, the unique use of animation through markers and sand helps to portray the confusion and disorientation that exists in this environment. The film is as much of a drama as it is an action film as it tells the terrifying story of this soldier and those around him. The close up shots that occur throughout the film help to portray the main character's emotions in the scenes as well [0:51] [5:05] [7:27].

In her presentation on Debunking Arab Stereotypes, Isra El-beshir talked about the standardizations held in American society against the Arabic ethnicity. El-beshir referred to orientalism which is the collection of beliefs associated with people from the East. This film holds true to the stereotypical Arabic style of living through the use of desert terrain and the simple, pre-industrial lifestyles of civilians.

El-beshir also mentioned the idea of othering, which refers to the act of thinking people as different from one's self. Contrary to popular thought, this film portrayed that the people in this town are not so different from the American soldiers. They each showed the same fear [2:01-2:10]. The goat [7:35], the solider [8:01], and the enemy combatant [8:55] ended the film in very similar positions.

Lastly, El-beshir mentioned that a commonly held stereotype against Arabic people is that they are all associated with terrorism, but Confusion Through Sand showed a different side to them in how the goat owner acknowledged the soldiers and showed peace with his hand gesture [2:25] and the little boys laughed and waved to the soldier thinking of him as a friend [3:43-3:51].

Confusion Through Sand depicts the idea that though Americans often see themselves as entirely different from the people in the Middle East, these two groups are not as different as they are often considered to be. The solider and the goat owner both feel the same fear, the goat and the solider share the same pain, and they all search for some sign of humanity in the brutality of war. Ultimately, this is not a story about war but rather a story about life and understanding the differences that make people unique while recognizing the similarities that bring us together.

Click on the screen capture from Confusion Through War to watch the film.