Best Documentary Ever?


Over at the Weekly Standard, quondam Reason contributor Michael Fumento reviews a new documentary on Iraq. Nothing new there. But this documentary, The War Tapes, has been praised up and down across the anti-war blogosphere and media. But it's not an anti-war tract—it's gritty and clear-eyed enough to impress a hawk like Fumento.

The War Tapes simply shows the war as it is, for better or worse, primarily through the eyes of three apparently quite average National Guard soldiers… Producer Deborah Scranton gave them, and other soldiers from the New Hampshire National Guard's 172nd Infantry Regiment deploying for a year to Camp Anaconda in the Sunni Triangle, mini-DV camcorders. With these they show the boredom, the horror–and yes, the humor–of men given the nasty job of accompanying primarily food convoys past IEDS, RPGs, machine-gun ambushes, and worst of all, suicide car bombers.

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  1. “the horror”

    Shouldn’t that be “the haaaaror… the haaaaaaror…urk! I swallowed a bug.”

    “I wanted a war documentary, and for all my sins, I got one.”

  2. While I haven’t seen this film, I do think one has to be weary of claims that any documentary “shows things as they really are” or doesn’t take sides.

    Somebody had to take the many hours of video recorded and decide what small percentage of it should go into the finished product.

  3. Akira,

    You’re an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill.

  4. I love the smell of pop culture references in the morning, it smell like… geekry.

  5. Gunner Palace was a really good film.

  6. Akira, did you ever see the parody, Porklips Now? It’s on the web somewhere, I’m sure, and it’s also included on the Hardware Wars VHS.

    Anyway, it’s pretty funny. My favorite line is when they listen to Mertz (Kurtz) broadcasting a commercial (he’s a butcher who has unsound methods in this film) where he says something like, “Slashing prices. . .with a straight razor”. Using a Brando/Kurtz impersonation to say it, no less.

  7. I watched an interview (on C-span Q & A) with the producer and one of the main soldiers. I look forward to seeing the film. They showed clips and it looked pretty up front.

    It also seemed to be fairly even. Some of the soldiers were gung ho and others were very clear that they “would rather walk that do this for oil in order for rednecks to have trucks”.

  8. Yes, see Gunner Palace, Voices of Iraq, and Gaza Strip 2004. War Tapes not yet listed at Netflix.

    OT, a really good doc recently released on DVD is Harlan County, USA.

  9. Here are some great Iraq documentary footage:

    These are made by a Hollywood agent who chucked it all to go to Iraq. The last video has a hilarious scene where Iraqi translators call Michael Moore a little bitch.

  10. The soldiers don’t like KBR? They must not know how good a deal KBR is/was. KBR food is awesome, KBR facilities are awesome. The food was aweful before KBR. I mean before KBR there was the military doing food and stuff.

    So you had guys who really didn’t want to do the job making food for people that they didn’t like and that didn’t like them.

    I hope that whoever replaces KBR can produce similar quality.

    The guys who do my food right now do not. I relish going to chow halls in major military bases. The food I have now is generally awful.

    Anyways, I’d be interested in seeing the documentary.

  11. My brother did documentaries for CNN and the History channel. Let’s just say there are some aspects of war that aren’t pretty no matter what. I’m pissed that he was ever forced into these situations, yet with his PTSD he can only sleep at night by justifying the actions that he did. It’s a tragedy.

    To avoid angst for senseless slaughter ordered by politico and enforced through his gun, he’s willing to take any flimsy justification for killing people so that the angst doesn’t eat his soul. Do you know how many vets are going to snap? Let’s just say that the most stable people didn’t sign up for the marines.

  12. Kwis,

    You are right. Live on T-Rats and MREs for a couple of months and you start praying for the KBR God to arrive. I have never known anyone who deployed who didn’t love KBR. Maybe these guys coming to late to the party have never had to live without KBR and thus don’t appreciate them.

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