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If It Bleeds, It Leads: The New Wave of Combat Docs

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik June 16, 2010 at 9:01AM

If It Bleeds, It Leads: The New Wave of Combat Docs
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Ever since 9/11 and the U.S.'s misplaced and belligerent military policies lead us to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I've closely followed how these battles have been represented and received across several articles: "Why are Iraq war films flopping" (Slate, 9/12/06); "Brian De Palma Explains Himself" on "Redacted" (Village Voice, 9/7/07); "Battle for Haditha: Nick Broomfield's Hopeful Iraq Drama" (5/6/08); "Absurdistan: The New Iraq War Cinema" (4/15/08); and "The Hurt Locker: Revisited and Overrated" (12/14/09). Call it a pet theme of mine--or rather, a pet peeve.

In my latest attempt to parse what's going on, "Giving Audiences the War They Want" (IFC News, 6/15/10), I examine the latest wave of war documentaries focusing on our continued military entanglements in Afghanistan--or "Obama's War," to evoke the name of the recent Frontline documentary. In contrast to past Iraqumentaries, this latest crop is more "visceral" and "immersive" to quote one of the filmmakers I spoke with, specifically as a result of the ground conflict in the country. As veteran war docmaker Michael Tucker told me, "Iraq was a really dirty, ugly, horrific, incredibly boring hot thing, where it's driving, driving, driving, and then 'boom,' suddenly people die. But Afghanistan looks like Khe Sanh: it's got Chinooks; it's not in the middle of the city; it's easier for people to process."

This article is related to: Political Docs, Iraq, War