by Philip Greenspan
(Swans - November 5, 2007) I am pleased to learn that several films coming out of Hollywood have entered hazardous territory by accurately portraying some taboo subjects. I've already seen two of them -- In the Valley of Elah and Rendition. Both convey happenings that scream for coverage in the media but are ignored or relegated to a few paragraphs below the fold of page B14.
Elah is about a patriotic Vietnam veteran who investigates the tragic murder of his son just back from duty in Iraq. He probes through an agonizing course of incidents that transpired to discover why and by whom his boy was killed. What does he -- or maybe just me, a viewer -- eventually realize? That the army and its combat experiences transform kids into warriors. And as warriors they have been changed, radically changed for the worse! A mother of one of the GIs at the Mai Lai massacre may have summed it up when she told Seymour Hersh, "I gave them a good boy. And they sent me back a murderer."
Rendition is a story of a victim of torture that mirrors what can and has happened to innocent, unsuspecting people targeted as suspicious. While he is sent to a foreign country where he endures excruciating and recurring pain from harrowing interrogations, his loved ones are tormented as they desperately search for clues -- with no help, just silence, from those in the know -- of what happened to mysteriously disappear this poor victim.
A trailer of Stop Loss was shown before the feature Rendition hit the screen. The title defines the military practice of extending a GI's term of service beyond its termination date. How does a guy feel, a guy who's been anticipating his release from the military like a long-term prisoner expecting a return to freedom? The few clips of the film depict a soldier unhappy with the unexpected turn of events. He seems ready and willing to resist that stop-loss summons. It's a picture I intend to see when it's released in March.
A documentary in limited distribution is Meeting Resistance. It was made in 2003 by filmmakers who followed and interviewed insurgent fighting forces in Iraq for a few months. Were they foreign terrorists, al Qaeda perhaps? No! Their film depicts an insurgency composed of ordinary Iraqis intent on expelling the occupation. Why? As their conversations reveal, because of the bombings by the Americans that killed friends and neighbors, arrested family members, and treated Iraq, their homeland, and its citizens abusively.
Another documentary, Jimmy Carter Man from Plains, follows Carter on the book tour of his controversial book Peace Not Apartheid. Carter courageously forged into forbidden territory by exposing the horrors inflicted upon the Palestinians by the Israeli government. The fireworks that ensued as the pro-Israeli camp slandered this thoughtful and respected gentleman should make captivating viewing.
Redacted, a docudrama written and directed by Brian De Palma, depicts the true story of GIs who raped a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and then murdered her family. The title reflects Brian De Palma's recognition that war news now is incomplete, whitewashed, censored. "In Vietnam, . . . we saw the images and the sorrow of the people we were traumatizing and killing, we saw the soldiers wounded and brought back in body bags. We see none of that in this war," De Palma has said.
Lions for Lambs attempts to cover aspects of the war by cutting into different groups of people: among the young, an idealistic professor and his interplay with his students -- undecided, confused, uncaring, determined; in Washington, a charismatic senator with eyes for the presidency with an exclusive for an eager probing TV journalist; and on the battlefield, two former students of the professor on the front lines in Afghanistan.
Grace is Gone portrays the anguish of surviving relatives and friends of those killed in the war. John Cusack, the star of the film, finds the ban on media coverage of returning war dead "one of the most shameful, disgraceful, cowardly political acts that I've seen in my lifetime." He plays a father facing the difficult task of telling his young daughters that their soldier mother was killed in the war.
The government and the subservient media have been feeding the public with propaganda to get their support for their illegal and senseless wars. They do not disclose the reality -- the many troublesome and heartbreaking realities that emanate from war. By realistically giving viewers a different perspective these films could have an impact. It could generate grosses sufficient to cause the Hollywood front offices to produce much more of these honest films in theatres and for TV. It could create an undercurrent of agitation and a backlash against the deaf, dumb, and blind politicians who have ignored the demands of the people to halt the insane war policies of this government.
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