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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Battle Fatigue: Anthony K. on Why Iraq Docs Keep Flopping


Indiewire’s Anthony Kaufman has a smart piece in SLATE on why so many documentaries about the war in Iraq aren’t doing well with movie audiences–despite a dearth of US television about what’s really going on over there, and a growing sentiment that US involvement should decrease or end entirely.
Four years and 2,745 US deaths into the war, are Americans too jaded and depressed to shell out $10 bucks to see a movie that’s probably going to be about about casualties, carnage and political clusterfuckage?

In the wake of Michael Moore’s highly poltiical FAHRENHEIT 9/11, which grossed $119 million, there have been at least 10 documentaries about the war in Iraq — but none has grossed more than $1 million. Only the war-machine-in-general exploration WHY WE FIGHT, has broken that barrier. (THE WAR ROOM, about the military’s handling of media coverage from the war front, is nearing the mark).
Beyond GUNNER PALACE, OCCUPATION: DREAMLAND, and THE WAR TAPES, I can honestly say I don’t even remember hearing about press screenings for the other films that Kaufman mentions. Other non-fiction filmmakers have been more successful by pointing their cameras in another direction: at the gross civil rights violations committed here in the U.S. since 9/11.

Watch Lowell Bergman’s two part FRONTLINE series about all the heralded arrests of homeland Al Qaeda cells (Lodi, upstate New York, and Miami) that turn out to be nothing (all charges dropped for lack of evidence)–PBS has made THE ENEMY WITHIN available for free on its website.

Meanwhile, this year’s hot doc–AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH–a chalk talk with a smart, boring politician/correspondent who cares, is the sort of thing that could have played as a NBC WHITE PAPER on the environment. Forty years ago.

Lately the most pungent — and probably the most widely seen — commentary on the US occupation of Iraq war hasn’t been in movie theaters. It’s been in the season opening episodes of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
Slate has another interesting cultural commentary piece about why the parallels only go so far.

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One Response to “Battle Fatigue: Anthony K. on Why Iraq Docs Keep Flopping”

  1. Shane says:

    I agree – waaay too many Iraq docs. Now brace yourself for the flood (no pun intended) of Katrina docs…

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon