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

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

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.”

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