'The Tillman Story' = Good People, Good Documentary

by mattdentler
August 10, 2010 4:01 AM
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Before I saw a frame of The Tillman Story (which would mean, before Monday night's New York Premiere), I already knew that the documentary was a project that had attracted good people. Director Amir Bar-Lev is a documentarian I've known for a couple of years, and I have been a fan of him as a person and a filmmaker. When I heard about his latest documentary, a project that would shed light on the mysterious circumstances of NFL star Pat Tillman's death in the current war, I was instantly fixated. The project was shepherded by A&E IndieFilms' Molly Thompson (another great person), and featured narration by actor Josh Brolin (one of the best guys in Hollywood today). All these things made me think one thing: good people. But it wasn't until Monday night at MoMA, whenI finally saw the film, that I realized these good people made a very good documentary. Maybe there are some third-act pacing problems, but that aside, I think The Tillman Story is a terrific piece of filmmaking.

(Tillman Story narrator Josh Brolin and director Amir Bar-Lev, take a moment to celebrate a job well done at Monday night's premiere party at Michael's in midtown Manhattan.)

Amir Bar-Lev tells a story that is both suspenseful, and heartfelt. On Monday night, after the premiere (hosted by Michael's), I asked producer Molly Thompson about war veterans. Given that so much of the film is about the unfortunate mishandling of this event by the military, would the film alienate veterans? She commented that they've seen the film work well with open-minded military folks, those who are willing to understand that their system is not always perfect. In the age of Wikileaks and General Stanley McChrystal's controversial Rolling Stone interview, these truths are even more evident. However, as much as the filmmakers uncovered for The Tillman Story, even some things were understandably off-limits. During the after-party at Michael's, Amir Bar-Lev and producer John Battsek took questions from a crowd that had been shaken from the details of the film. During their discussion, both Bar-Lev and Battsek seemed genuinely moved by what the Tillman family granted them, but also acknowledged that it was important to maintain respect for Pat's privacy. After seeing The Tillman Story, it becomes apparent that the best example of "good people," might be the Tillmans.

Here is the theatrical trailer for the film (click here for more information about the theatrical dates):

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  • Guy Montag | August 10, 2010 11:27 AMReply

    In his interview with Jason Guerrasio, “The Fog of War”, Amir said, “… there’s been no culpability on the second half of this tragedy, which is the higher ups trying to cover it up. … to borrow a football metaphor, they [the Tillman family] ran the ball 99 yards over four years time, they handed it off at the one-yard line to Congress and they fumbled it...."

    Shortly after Sundance, Amir emailed me that “he was pretty hard on the Democratic Congress in his film.” True, his film does portray Congressman Waxman’s Oversight Committee as ineptly failing to get answers from the top military leadership during their hearing.

    However, Amir missed the ”untold story” that both the Democratic Congress and the Obama Presidency have intentionally protected General Stanley McChrystal from punishment for his central role in the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death. This cover-up was a thoroughly bi-partisan affair. It wasn’t just a case of the Bush administration and the Army stonewalling Congress. The Democratic Congress didn’t just “fumble,” they threw the game.

    In the “The Emperor’s General” I described how President Obama’s covered for McChrystal and why Obama made his own “big-time fumble” at Sun Devil Stadium.

    I’m currently working on a new document, “The [Untold] Tillman Story,” that focuses on Congress’s role in covering for General McChrystal. This document consolidates material from my previous work and updates it with new information (it'll be posted Friday, although there is plenty of info there already).

    It’s not surprising that after their initial cover-up of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death fell apart, Army officers and the Bush administration lied to protect their careers. But after they took control of both Houses of Congress in 2006, the Democrats (including Congressman Waxman, Senator Levin, Webb, McCain) could have gone after those responsible. Or at least not promoted them twice!

    Just before the 2006 mid-term elections, Kevin Tillman published his eloquent letter, “After Pat’s Birthday”. Kevin had hoped a Democratic Congress would bring accountability back to our country. But, just as with warrantless wiretapping and torture, those responsible for the cover-up of his brother’s friendly-fire death have never been held accountable for their actions.

    Go to http://www.feralfirefighter.blogspot.com to find version of comment with hyperlinks or to see docs.

    Another excellent interview is, “Amir Bar-Lev On What You See (and What You Don't) In His Hot Sundance Doc The Tillman Story.”

  • leigh haber | August 10, 2010 5:56 AMReply

    The film is terrific. Amir is an incredibly talented director.
    The book that helped inspire the movie--BOOTS ON THE GROUND BY DUSK, by Pat's mother, Mary Tillman-- has just been released in paperback with an explosive new foreword. It is available at blurb.com. I was Mary Tillman's original book editor, and am so glad to see this subject still getting the attention it deserves.

    You're right about the Tillman family.