THE WAR TAPES: The First War Movie Filmed by Soldiers Themselves, (DVD), Stewart Films, 2006.
Rather than sending a film crew to Iraq to create another documentary on the war, director Deborah Scranton just sent cameras. She equipped three New Hampshire National Guardsmen with digital cameras and gave them a bit of training in their use. The resulting film, The War Tapes, creates an image of the war that is simultaneously intimate, sweeping, troubling, and inspiring.
For those few of us who have yet to deploy to Iraq, the film's unmediated view of the war is a refreshing change from coverage all too often so far removed from the Soldiers' view that it seems like, well, news coverage. The three main characters in the film-Sergeant Zach Bazzi, Specialist Michael Moriarti, and Sergeant Steve Pink-are caught on camera in moments of fatigue, fear, laughter, and cynicism, expressing their views with a candor few could capture through conventional documentary techniques.
Scranton edited over 900 hours of footage in Iraq and over 200 hours of footage back home-some of it filmed in the Soldiers' absence and some capturing their return and reintegration-into a 94-minute film that won the Tribeca Film Festival's Best International Documentary competition.
The War Tapes is a testament to the American Soldier who, despite danger, disappointment, and political discontent, does his job well and remains surprisingly sensitive under the layer of bravado he dons at times.
The film's main characters are an interesting batch: Moriarti, a patriot so upset by 9/11 that he cannot wait to get to Iraq; Pink, a quietly funny man with a penchant for vivid metaphors, who regrets enlisting even before the unit deploys; and Bazzi, a Lebanese-American fluent in Arabic, who reads The Nation and was apparently one of just several in the company who did not vote for the president in the elections that occurred during their deployment.
We follow the men and their comrades through train-up, their arrival at Camp Anaconda, and their many missions escorting convoys through the Sunni heartland. …