Sunday, November 06, 2005

Get Real Film Festival 5 - Friday

Friday night, Pooteewheet and I went to the Get Real 5 Film Festival at the Lagoon in Uptown. We spent the whole evening watching documentaries about war.

From Two Men and a War was about a WWII pilot, Robert Drew, who flew the precursor to the P-51 Mustang (the A-36 dive bomber). It was sort of a classic WWII story for a flyer - running bombing missions, getting shot down, and struggling to get back to allied lines (in the Italian theater in this instance, during the period when the push was going on near Cassio). However, Drew spent a lot of time integrating actual footage of A-36 runs, which are incredible if you've never seen a dive bomber drop out of the sky in a nose down dive for several thousand feet - it looks like the camera is being held at completely the wrong angle. The A-36 was actually equipped with flaps on the top of the wings that could pop up and slow the plane in the final portion of the dive, allowing the pilot greater control over the speed and pull out. Technicals aside, he also did a great job pulling in details about his father, a pilot during both World Wars (and who died in the second - he was deemed to old to fly in WWII, but only because he had lied about being older to fly in WWI, so he had it corrected and flew), about his family, about meeting war correspondent Ernie Pyle and how Ernie personally communicated with Drew's mother during Drew's several month absence behind enemy lines, about the Italians that helped him back to allied lines, and about his experiences under friendly artillery fire barrage.

Why We Fight was a production (big theater) quality movie about the U.S. move toward not just being burdened with a military-industrial complex, but in some respects a military-industrial-government-(think tank) complex that is pushing us toward a system where war is profitable and not even questioned as an economic necessity. The movie examined the rise of the system, Eisenhower's frequent warnings, right up until his final speech as president (he coined the term military-industrial complex), the concerns of many about the trend (such as McCain, who was extremely candid about his views - in one scene he has to break off criticizing the economic ties of the VP and other administration officials to take a call from Cheney) and the jubilation of others (such as Perle, who had one of the most disturbingly accurate comments - that when this administration is gone, we don't get to go back to how it was, we are all different because of their actions. I don't believe most progressives really think that they want to go back to a golden age - I think golden age thinking is a particularly rightist motif with the exception of a few on the left who have a glossy-eyed view of the age of love that doesn't mesh with reality anymore than the right's vision of the 50s. However, it's still upsetting to have it thrown in your face that the actions of this Administration have changed you personally and have changed the perceptions of others about your country in a way that can't be undone, only changed again). I actually preferred this movie to Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, in part for the same reason as Pooteewheet, that it was "like Moore without the snark" and focused on the history, and integrated personal stories of those affected by 9/11 and the war, without resorting to what felt like a personal narrative by the film maker. The personal stories in this film include a New Yorker with a son who died in the towers and bought into revenge against Iraq, to the extent of asking to have his son's name painted on the side of a bomb, only to hear the President tell him that they had never said Iraq was to blame, and interviews with pilots who participated in the opening hostilities. Sony has picked up "Why We Fight" and will be releasing it widely at some point - if you see it advertised, I strongly recommend going.

Sir! No Sir! was not produced as cleanly as "Why We Fight", but this was my favorite movie of the night because it was all so absolutely new to me. "Sir! No Sir!" dealt strictly with the movement within the military to stop the war in Vietnam. Protests by soldiers, coffee shops run by soldiers near bases to distribute tales from the front, underground newsletters, soldiers arrested on mutiny, "fragging" (killing your own commanders), bombers who wouldn't bomb, soldiers who wouldn't fight, whole aircraft carriers like the Constellation staging community votes not to leave port (this was after my father had left the navy and California, as it was '72. Wish he'd have been around so he could tell me about it - although maybe he has a story or two about friends who were still in the service in the area at the time?), particularly black American reaction to the war, on and on and on. I find it hard to believe that there's a problem with liberal teachers in schools when after a high school unit on Vietnam and a course in the 70s at the U of MN, I knew almost none of this - things that were showing up in Life magazine at the time.

By the way, if you're not familiar with Colin Powell's involvement in Mai Lai, please go take a look (if you'd been at the show, it could have won you a free drink).

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