A film festival devoted to uncensoring and contextualizing video shot by soldiers, embedded journalists and other insiders. A film festival that does not exist.
At Youtube.com you can watch thousands of young fools lip synch to Sir Mix-a-Lot and Evanescence in their underdrawers. You can also go to Iraq. As you travel the blasted sandscape, you can get shot, blown up by roadside bombs, pelted with stones, cursed out in Arabic, mutilated, torched, beheaded. You can also, military-style, get some. You can be a Blackwater mercenary on the hunt for terr wrists (the proper heartland merc pronunciation of "terrorist"); you can pepper an unarmed, bleeding civilian with dozens of machine gun rounds as he cries out to Allah; you can fire missiles and drop bombs on skittering infrared ants that are actually human beings; you can go joyriding down an Iraqi highway, firing into random civilian vehicles to some rockabilly travellin' music; you can send women and children on a hundred yard dash as you lay out a canopy of deadly, whistling projectiles over their heads. You, you, you.
Youtube has surpassed even thenausea.com as a clearinghouse for images of Iraq War atrocities. Type "Iraq," "Baghdad" or "Fallujah" and prepare to lose hours immersed in the real shit. Some of the content there, posted by site visitors, is the usual network/cable TV embedded reportage. Self-censoring, six-figure journalists yapping over near-subliminal glimpses of convoys and combat. But most of the good stuff is culled from independent journalists and the soldiers themselves.
After viewing dozens of these videos, I formed a half-assed thought: Trained killers who manage to survive war learn to accept or at least rationalize the brutality of their art; when they hold the camcorder, fear of incrimination falls to the promise of vindication. We're meant to see that they had no choice, to understand that their finesse at killing mitigates the fact that they kill. As TV has taught us, professionalism and proper intent absolve all. It's all in the edit.
Opening Night Selection
A swift action-adventure car chase.
3rd Marines in Fallujah
George Romero, Quentin Tarantino, Rob Zombie: Amateurs.
Starts as an homage to Cops, with the "Bad Boys" song ambling over quick cuts of U.S. troop takedowns and perp humiliations. Whatever. But then the editor puts on the same Jay-Z/Linkin Park mashup used to electrifying effect in the Miami Vice trailer. Hold on. A thread of sorrow, lament and irony strides in. At the very end, a near-subliminal rapid montage of mangled, bloody corpses over the line "I... become so nuuuummmbb..." -- the only instance of graphic imagery after mostly wide shots from behind tanks and artillery firing at nondescript structures. Upsetting.
Another nihilistic montage, this time of Australia's Al Muthanna Task Group. They tear through the desert like those marauders in The Road Warrior.
Bored babyfaced American soldiers killing nothing but time:
Crocadile (sic) Hunter in Iraq
Out of Competition: CBS News on the Battle of Fallujah
21 CBS reports posted by PredatorFx, a 26 year old man from Columbus, Ohio whose user photo is of a Star Wars storm trooper.
Typically useless assemblage of vague commentary over war footage pruned of any context, specificity or insight.
This one gets into better detail as the battle approaches.
Over violent footage, CBS reporter David Martin ponders a truly insipid question.
Operation Phantom Fury on "Terrorist Central."
Soldier: "I feel bad for them, but they brought it on themselves."
The Early Show
In the middle of this report, a brief admission about the lethality of white phosphorous, another bizarre statement from Donald Rumsfeld, and a CBS reporter assuring us that a little boy stuck in the middle of a U.S. assault on farmlands was cool with the whole thing. Not that the boy's allowed more than two seconds of screen time or to have his words--whatever they were--translated verbatim.
"..a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito."
Embedded reporter Elizabeth Palmer masturbates over the "the overwhelming technology and firepower of the US military" as it destroys homes and neighborhoods along with insurgents. Watch from the receiving end of an RPG crash into a M1A1 Abrams tank--and the cameraman keeps filming, temporarily immortal behind armor plates.
Palmer tells us our soldiers are "doing their very best to spare the lives of civilians" while apocalyptic action rages onscreen.
The Hard Way
Some intense camcorder combat footage from Time magazine and a roadside bombing that catches a unit slumming.
What looks like the same Time magazine footage, untouched by CBS editors and commentary:
This documentary by USAF Sergeant James Carney won some kind of military award:
A thoughtful photomontage with field audio led me to the reporter-photographer's blog.
Closing Night: The Abyss
"Hey, warm body movin' across the alley!"
The infamous aerial clip of several Fallujans running from a U.S. bomber and into a U.S. bomb. A massacre, followed by a comment you'd expect to hear after a cumshot.
OSI agents exchange cash with paid insurgency snitches.
From Military.com: 1st Cav Div
Children of Iraq
I happened to watch this one muted, but with Sade's Pearls playing in the room. Destroyed me.
Mercenary contractors shooting civilian drivers in Iraq.