Lions for Lambs Iraq War Movie Critiques

Reviewer Kasia Anderson writes at Truthdig: 

“After all, given filmmaking conventions and production timelines, the odds are stacked against any dramatization of current events achieving some semblance of intelligibility within 88 minutes of footage cobbled together to form a finished product long before reality could easily make a mockery of its driving premise.”

The claim is false. For example, I wrote an investigative anti Iraq war novel within the first six months of the March 2003 ground invasion, and nothing in it is outdated. I got the facts correct then and they still apply today – only moreso. It’s called doing the root research. 

Similar to Anderson, Chris Stephen notes:

“[Black Watch director John] Tiffany thinks directors are barking up the wrong tree if they think in terms of movies-with-a-message. ‘Don’t kid yourself that you can change the world through art,’ he says. ‘You can’t tell an audience what to think – all you can give is a greater understanding’.”

Right, and advertising has zero effect on audiences, doesn’t affect people’s thinking at all, which is why corporations spend a monstrous amount on it. No message there. Don’t buy our product! And educational films and books don’t educate and affect what people think, which is why textbooks are so zealously regulated and censored by the culture police, etc, ad nauseum. There are no messages in getting crucial facts and analyses right. It could mean anything! Knowledge and drama that reveals powerfully the illegal and immoral nature of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq would never be used to stop the ongoing crime and bring those who carried it out to justice! That would make too much sense. So Hollywood, following Tiffany’s line of thought, must not produce it. Not because it’s too threatening to the powers that be, as it is, but because whatever is too threatening to the powers that be is inherently not “entertaining” – nobody is moved in film by anyone being brought to justice, or by ending great wrongs. That’s boring!

Obviously Tiffany’s comments are contradictory. Well-placed and well-analyzed and well-dramatized facts carry messages and have certain rather predictable effects that experiences lacking that sort of thing don’t. All movies, etc, have such messages. Better to know what you’re doing, and that you are doing something, and be responsible for it, than not.

And Chris Stephens is as mistaken as Kasia Anderson when he guesses,

“But perhaps the greatest problem facing Hollywood is that reality keeps outpacing fiction.”

Yet somehow with scant resources beyond the “activist” reporting and analyses found on the internet, along with some facts marginally reported in corporate media, I was able to write an investigative anti Iraq war novel during the 2003 ground invasion that is not outdated today and will never be outdated, because the facts that basically structure the drama are central and accurate, not only to the Iraq War but to much US policy and private US reality long past, very much present, with serious effects, at the least, that will be felt for a long time to come. It’s not at all as if the conflict in Iraq is some brand new phenomenon that has suddenly blown in from nowhere, or is somehow murky in its central and even peripheral features. The exact opposite is true.

Thus the problem in producing quality and fully illuminating films is totally not that “reality keeps outpacing fiction.” The problem is that such quality fiction can too easily keep up with a reality that continues to play out its old themes along traditional power lines, long since overtly articulated and investigated (however marginalized in its attempted burial by corporate-state power). And corporate America (Hollywood) is loathe to touch such reality-illuminating fiction. Corporate-state America is not going to condemn its own transgressions; not when there’s a profit to be made, at least; and is there ever – if perhaps somewhat less in certain types of would-be “entertainment”.

As for these comments below by mmm at Truthdig about Lions for Lambs, this “Excellent civics lesson that” the film is said to “illuminate” – these “lessons” are also false, contrary to fact; thus, if the film actually is perpetuating these views, it’s quite typical of Hollywood productions in perpetuating such crucial falsehoods:

“1.The militaristic response to terroism articulated in a searing performance by Tom Cruise-parts of his view are shared by almost everyone”

In fact, no, not essentially, quite the opposite – unless “everyone” here refers to state-corporate US officials. These officials don’t share the popular (and by far the most effective) view of how to deal with terrorism, which is police work, not militarism.

“2.The changing nature of the free press complicated by its need for access to powerful figures and the take over of this means of communication by corporate America”

The “changing nature”? That should be the essentially “unchanging and unchanged nature” of…not the “free press” – the corporate media – which cannot be “taken over” by corporate America, because it is corporate America.

“3.The fate of those who choose to participate directly militarily in the terroism fight.The apathy and ambiguity of the young and most of the nation.”

There is no terrorism fight. In fact, even the CIA has reported that US military aggression in the middle east is fomenting terrorism, providing fertile grounds for its growth. The same holds for longstanding US economic pressures. Attacking Iraq and Afghanistan serves to increase growth of terrorism, by way of the US fight to gain control of oil that rages and threatens to increase.

As for “apathy and ambiguity of the young and most of the nation” – the point is, compared to what? Compared to US corporate-state officials “the young and most of the nation” are far from apathetic, they are outraged, far from ambiguous, they tried to elect what they thought were antiwar officials, and then seeing them continue fueling the war they give all the officials some of the lowest approval ratings of all time. You don’t have to look too far – though apparently much farther than Lions for Lambs – to see that masses of unfortunately forcefully disorganized people are boiling at what is going on. Ron Paul, for one, is raking in the money because of it – for one indicator. And for another, it’s clear again this election cycle that all the leading corporate produced candidates basically disgust most people. People are disorganized and purposefully and very forcefully and willfully misled – that’s a problem. And yet boiling en masse, often for good reason. To this point, unfortunately, to little avail.

Just so, much illumination of crucial reality is often the first thing sacrificed in many a (perhaps otherwise brilliant) run-of-the-mill Hollywood movie, the type of movie that basically serves to reinforce an unjust reality while perpetuating false or severely limited views of it.

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