I just talked to Garrett Scott about two weeks ago. I spoke with him for Variety’s Spirit Awards special issue about the Truer than Fiction category, for which he was a nominee for “Occupation: Dreamland,” co-directed with Ian Olds. How crazy to think that Garrett survived war-torn Falluja and was soon heading for Afghanistan, but died in California. It’s shocking and tragic and painful. I really wanted to see his next film about Afghanistan. I really wish he could continue to make movies, because he was an immense talent with an eye for the complexities of every situation.
I had never met Garrett before, but I was a huge fan of his 2002 short documentary “Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story,” which explored the account of an unemployed San Diego plumber who absconded with an M-60 tank from a nearby National Guard armory. But Garrett explored the economic, social and philosophical conditions surrounding the tabloid-fodder incident in all their multiple layers. He saw past the headlines, as also evidenced in “Occupation: Dreamland,” his thoughtful look at U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
In our recent interview, Garrett conveyed some further insights, some of which I’d like to share here. He resisted any temptation to look at 9/11 “as the watershed mark when the world changed.” Rather, he spoke of America’s subsequent actions as the real paradigm shift: “A new era of foreign intervention,” as he called it. “I felt drawn to looking at this phenomena in a historical context, without including that context in the film,” he said. “‘Dreamland’ is supposed to be a core sample of this vast dimension and what’s the most personal way to see this abstract thing we call war.”
“It’s about fantastes and ideas and illusions,” he went on, “and what happens to them when they’re forced to interact with reality, do they stand? Do they fall? What happens with this conflict?”
Garrett spoke about the rise of political documentaries with a deep satisfication, explaining that it was high time for people to start examining the plight of humankind not just in our San Diego backyards but on a global scale. “In this day and age,” he said, “the world is flooding in, regardless of how many of us want to put our heads in the sand.”
Thanks for the conversation, Garrett, and thanks for the films.
There are already a number of heartfelt remembrances posted after indieWIRE’s news story announcing Garrett’s passing.