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American soldiers of the 2/3 Field Artillery, a group known as the "Gunners," tell of their experiences in Baghdad during the Iraq War. Holed up in a bombed out pleasure palace built by Sadaam Hussein, the soldiers endured hostile situations some four months after President George W. Bush declared the end of major combat operations in the country.
Is American foreign policy dominated by the idea of military supremacy? Has the military become too important in American life? Jarecki's shrewd and intelligent polemic would seem to give an affirmative answer to each of these questions.
Using state-of-the-art equipment, a group of activists, led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry, infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health.
Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's year dug in with the Second Platoon in one of Afghanistan's most strategically crucial valleys reveals extraordinary insight into the surreal combination of back breaking labor, deadly firefights, and camaraderie as the soldiers painfully push back the Taliban. Written by
Sundance Film Festival
It's a sad commentary on contemporary journalism that a film like Restrepo can win a prestigious award like the Grand Jury 2010 Sundance Best Documentary Award. Basically, the film-makers embed themselves with a US platoon in Afghanistan, document the experience, and intersperse interviews of some of the soldiers (taken after the period in question) throughout. There's no attempt to place the events in a larger context, no narrative to tie anything with the policy decisions taken in Washington, all we get is a raw "life in Afghanistan" seen through the eyes of soldiers on the ground in a single location. Don't get me wrong, it is quite interesting to actually see some of what is going on the ground in Afghanistan, after the thousands of hours of TV punditry and miles of newspaper column inches that media heads have filled with opinions, debates, tirades and justifications of the so called "war on terror". But this is the kind of reporting that should be omnipresent in our media, something you might see in a segment on 60 minutes, or some other outlet for investigative journalism (of which there are fewer and fewer).
Unfortunately, as we know, investigative journalism is expensive, and has dramatically been cut down in our age of media mega mergers. It's a lot cheaper to stick a few people around a table to mouth off on TV (and then cover the debate in the print media), then it is to ship true journalists across the globe (and around the centers of power in the US) who are not afraid to stir things up and take on the powers that be.
And so something like Restrepo - which is a bog standard journalistic piece - becomes an award winning documentary film. Examples of the kind of items that might be included in a wider scope documentary film worthy of awards: - Restrepo like footage in multiple locations in Afghanistan - similar footage of the other side (Taliban/AlQaeda or whomever is actually doing the fighting) with interviews on the reasons
interviews with the policy makers in DC explaining what the policies
are and why, what they are trying to achieve - compare these goals with what is going on the ground - facts and figures about how much money is being spent on the war (compare to how much is being spent on Afghan aid), start digging into which corporations are making the most profit out of it - look at the cozy ties between retired DoD personnel and defense contractors etc, etc, etc you can just keep pulling at strings forever really... Tie everything into a cohesive narrative, maybe start actually providing answers to the still unanswered question of what we are actually still doing in Afghanistan, and maybe we would have an important documentary film worthy of an award. But a context free year in the life of a US platoon - sorry guys, that just doesn't cut it.
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