Culture: A Controversial Buffalo Stance; Mike Davies Talks to Buffalo Soldiers Director Gregor Jordan
Byline: Mike Davies
For a while there it didn't look as though Australian director Gregor Jordan's film Buffalo Soldiers was ever going to make it to the screen. Adapted from a successful but very dark novel about life on an American army base in West Germany just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, even with the drug element toned down it was always going to be controversial.
But when, after 9/11, the war in Iraq began, no one seemed to be bothered about the amount of drugs in the film. Its caustic satire on what bored soldiers do to kill time when they're not killing the enemy, though, suddenly seemed politically inappropriate.
After all, here was Joaquin Phoenix playing a supply company soldier who was selling army issue on the black market in exchange for heroin which he and his gang were then cooking up to for the base Military Police to deal to the men. It's a long way from the innocent scams of Sgt Bilko.
Throw in racism, stoned troops running amok with a tank, inept officers consumed with childish rivalry, attempted murder and psychos in uniform and you can see how it might have raised a few eyebrows.
After almost two years on the shelf, not helped by its original UK distributor Film 4 being shut down, the film's finally opening both here and in America -just a couple of months before Jordan's follow-up Ned Kelly, the story of the notorious Australian outlaw cum folk hero starring Heath Ledger. Already American right-wingers are baying for blood and demanding the film be banned, something Jordan -himself the son of an Australian Air Force pilot who fought in Vietnam -finds both bemusing and scary. 'I find the reaction kind of terrifying,' he says. 'I never set out to upset anyone and to me the film's not anti-American or antimilitary; no more than One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is anti-mental institutions. …