Reflections On Iraqi War Movies
How many wars has the US been in so far?
Seventeen? More? Check them out!
How many movies were inspired by these wars or by the preparations
for some more?
Apart from internal, regional and world wars, there was Korea, then Vietnam. Then the fiasco of the invasion of the Bay of Pigs (Cuba), Lebanon 1982, the escape from Somalia, the first Gulf war and the second Gulf war. Actually this last one along with the current war
This combative history created its parallel in cinematic expression known as the 'war genre' of movies, a category of movies which has known stability of concept only through the fourties and fifies when it was largely understood as a message to the world declaring the emergence of the greatest world power on the land of the "American Dream". Many war movies of those decades served as universal reservoirs for stories of bravery and sacrifice, of human sufferings for noble intentions and alliances against evils. But, then the drafts and mass conscriptions (and, possibly, conscientious abstinence) ensued
as the militarization of the American society was ushered in.
More movies were needed!
Following the defeat in Vietnam, on pressures from civil and intellectual groups and under the guise of healing the wounds of the nation came the films of the war on Vietnam. It was passed in pop culture under a specific name: the Vietnam war movie genre.
A change in terminology. Those were the years of the movement for civil rights of the late sixties and the seventies. Great movies were made, that told of the sufferings of the American soldiers. Coming Home, The Deer hunter, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon..etc.
The crisis in categorization of such movie productions was further deepened by subsequent US military adventures around the globe. Categorization of movies into genres is not the business of film producers or scholars exclusively. Cinema spectators also need it to better understand and relate to movies.
So in what genre would "Redacted" be?
The film of course is hard to place in any genre, let alone award it six Oscars!
But, I must hasten to say that this is not the worst of the Iraq war movies. The one that starred Mat Damon is awefully stupid, "Green Zone". It shows some American servicemen going from place to place to find, in vain of course, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Trying to sell you the story you followed on TV!
Is this documentation? Is this a war movie?
Oliver Stone, the maker of Platoon 1986, was asked why Iraq war films were not as successful as those of the Vietnam war. He answered:
"A difficult question indeed, but the conditions differ in that the country during the Vietnam war was divided from the beginning. Conservatives were pro-war and most young people were anti-war. The war in Iraq took place after the aggression against the US (09/11) Most people felt they had been targeted so they favored movies that support the war more than ones that criticized it and most of the movies that came out of the war in Iraq were critical.
There is also the television and news networks. Today they convey to you what is happening at once and at all times, while during the sixties the news would arrive much later." He went on to say:
"Traditionally Hollywood produced movies on every war fought by the United States after it was over, such as what happened with films of World War II and the Korean War and Vietnam, but here with the Iraq war it was an exception. Films of World War II carried the flavor of championship and victory, but this flavor was replaced by disappointment and psychological problems with the films of the Vietnam War and also overshadowed later films on the topic of Iraq."
Stone was obviously touching on the objective analysis of the crisis in the genre.
So, the once-called war genre, the source of courage and pride, the fuel for patriotism, unity and other positive sentiments, is now becoming more of a nightmare. No one wants to see scenes of the mutilated bodies of his fellow citizens. Or, to put it on a stiff note, go see where his tax money is spent. But on the deeper level the absurdity of the cause for war is bringing more people to adopt the anti-war view!
In fact, many scholars believe the huge number of movies on 'the war on terrorism' reflects a deep rejection of this war among the larger sectors of the American society.
where meant as a kind of recognition of the many movies on Iraq war, especially when there were strong expectations that James Cameron's "Avatar" would be the winner. The film industry has its ways of sending coded messages that only inner circles of production would decipher.
The awarding of the Golden Bear at the last Berlin International Film Festival to Roman Polanski despite his being under house arrest in Switzerland on the eve of his trial on charges of sexual harassment was a message of explicit support.
Click here to rate this article