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.
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):