The cost of war?4 Deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq? 919,967 (Source) US military expenditure in decade since 9/11 $1.36 trillion
Documenting ‘truth’?5 The power of documentary to reveal a ‘truth’ grants it special status To ‘document’ a subject implies keeping a factual record for future reference
John Grierson (1930s-1940s)6 Education + propaganda = social reform?
The expositional mode7 See Bill Nichols (1991/2004) Tended to depict institutions, communities and traditions Public mode of address: Highly formal Serious Educational Aimed at informing citizens in a mass democracy.
The observational mode8 1950s onwards cinema vérité ‘cinema truth’ ‘direct cinema’ observe and record the reality of everyday life as it happened without the usual organisational planning and structured direction ‘fly on the wall’
Critique9 ‘To be sure, some documentarists claim to be objective – a term that seems to renounce an interpretive role. The claim may be strategic, but it is surely meaningless. The documentarists, like any communicator in any medium makes endless choices. He (sic) selects topics, people, vistas, angles, lens, juxtapositions, sounds, words. Each selection is an expression of his point of view, whether he is aware of it or not, whether he acknowledges it or not.’ Erik Barnouw (1993: 287)
The participatory mode11 Welcomes direct engagement between filmmaker and subject(s) Filmmaker: becomes part of the events being recorded is acknowledged (even celebrated) for their impact on events
The reflexive mode12 Acknowledges the constructed nature of documentary Artifice is exposed Not ‘truth’ but a reconstruction of ‘a’ truth, not ‘the’ truth Frequently features the film-maker making the documentary De-mystifying its processes
The performative mode13 Emphasizes the subjective nature of the filmmaker Polemical, evocative and aiming for affect
The golden age of14 documentary? Afghanistan
The golden age of15 documentary? Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death (2002, UK, Jamie Doran) Commando: On the Front Line – TV series (2007, UK, Christopher Terrill) Taxi to the Dark Side (2007, USA, Alex Gibney) Taking on the Taliban (2007, UK, BBC) Afghanistan: The Forgotten War (2008, USA, unknown) Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear (2008, Canada, Dominic Morissette, Julian Sher, Andrea Thiel) Jack: A Soldiers Story (2008, UK Robin Barnwell, Nick Norman-Butler) Tree Bloody Summers (2008, UK, Richard Grange) Armadillo (2010, Denmark, Janus Metz Pedersen) Restrepo (2010, USA, Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger) The Battle for Marjah (2010, USA, Anthony Wonke)
The golden age of17 documentary? In Shifting Sands (2001, USA, Scott Ritter) About Baghdad (2003, USA, Sinan Antoon, Bassam Haddad, Maya Mikdashi, Suzy Salamy, Adam Shapiro) Baghdad or Bust (2004, Canada, Matt Frame) Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror (2003, UK, Steve Connelly, John Pilger) Control Room (2004, USA, Jehane Noujaim) Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004, USA, Michael Moore) Gunner Palace (2004, USA, Petra Epperlein, Michael Tucker) Inside Iraq: The Untold Stories (2004, USA, Mike Shiley) Last Letters Home: Voices of American Troops from the Battlefields of Iraq (2004, USA, Bill Couturié) Soldiers Pay (2004, USA, Tricia Regan, David O. Russell, Juan Carlos Zaldívar) Uncovered: The War on Iraq (2004, USA, Robert Greenwald) Voices of Iraq (2004, Iraq/USA, People of Iraq) War Feels Like War (2004, UK, Esteban Uyarra) We Iraqis (2004, France, Abbas Fahdel) WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception (2004, USA, Danny Schecter)
The golden age of18 documentary? In the Shadow of the Palms (2005, Australia, Wayne Coles-Janess) Occupation: Dreamland (2005, USA, Ian Olds, Garrett Scott) The Dreams of Sparrows (2005, Iraq/USA, Haydar Daffar, Haydar Mousa Daffar) Why We Fight (2005, USA/France/UK/Canada/Denmark, Eugene Jarecki) Alpha Company: Iraq Diary (2006, USA, Gordon Forbes III) Baghdad ER (2006, USA, Jon Alpert, Matthew O’Neill) Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers (2006, USA, Robert Greenwald) Iraq in Fragments (2006, USA, James Longley) My Country, My Country (2006, USA, Laura Poitras) The Ground Truth (2006, USA, Patricia Foulkrod) The War Tapes (2006, USA, Deborah Scranton) When I Came Home (2006,USA, Dan Lohaus)
The golden age of19 documentary? Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq (2007, USA, Jon Alpert, Ellen Goosenberg Kent) Body of War (2007, USA, Phil Donahue, Ellen Spiro) Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (2007, USA, Rory Kennedy) I Am an American Soldier (2007, UK/USA, John Laurence) No End in Sight (2007, USA, Charles Ferguson) Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (2007, USA, Richard Robbins) This Is War: Memories of Iraq (2007, USA, Gary Mortensen) Three Soldiers (2007, USA, Shailly Agnihotri) Year at Danger (2007, USA, Steve Metze, Don Swaynos)
The golden age of20 documentary? Bad Voodoos War (2008, USA, Deborah Scranton) Fighting for Life (2008, USA, Terry Sanders) My Vietnam, Your Iraq (2008, USA, Ron Osgood) Reserved to Fight (2008, USA, Chantelle Squires) The Corporals Diary: 38 Days in Iraq (2008, USA, Patricia Boiko, Lauren Spellman) Brothers at War (2009, USA, Jake Rademacher) Triangle of Death (2009, USA, Folleh Shar Tamba) The Unreturned (2010, USA/Canada, Nathan Fisher) The War You Dont See (2010, UK, Alan Lowrey, John Pilger) The Tillman Story (2010, USA, Amir Bar-Lev)
CentCom26 • CentCom (Qatar) • $1.5m briefing centre • Plasma screens, mini studious, phone banks • Designed by Hollywood set designer, George Allison • Platform for truth (US General Tommy Franks) • Seating arrangements reflected pecking order
WMD: Weapons of Mass31 Deception Danny Schechter
Control Room32 Behind the scenes access to Al Jazeera at CentCom (Doha, Qatar)
‘Grunt documentaries’33 ‘by privileging personal experience over historical awareness, these accounts construct a version of the war in which it becomes impossible to apprehend such atrocities as Haditha, Ramadi, Abu Ghraib’
Restrepo34 The Korengal Valley Embedded with Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Army
Seminars35 Where does Restrepo fit? What kind of documentary is it? What function does it serve?
Sources and further reading:36 Jeffrey Chown (2008) ‘Documentary and the Iraq War: A New Genre for New Realities’ in Peter C. Rollins & John E. O’Connor (2008) Why We Fought: America’s Wars in Film and History, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky. Tony Grajeda (2007) ‘The winning and losing of hearts and minds: Vietnam, Iraq, and the claims of the war documentary’, Jump Cut, No. 49, http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc49.2007/Grajeda/text.html Douglas Kellner (2010) Cinema Wars: Hollywood Film and Politics in the Bush-Cheney Era, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. Sherry Ricchiardi (2007) ‘Obstructed View’, American Journalism Review, April/May 2007, http://www.ajr.org/article.asp?id=4301 Peter C. Rollins & John E. O’Connor (2008) Why We Fought: America’s Wars in Film and History, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky.
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