The War Tapes
Stars Steven Pink, Zack Brazzi, Mike Moriarty•
Director Deborah Scranton
**** (out of five)
The idea behind Deborah Scranton’s The War Tapes is both simple and unprecedented — three U.S. National Guard reservists are handed video cameras and a supply of tape before going to Iraq and told to film whatever they want, or can.
The simplicity is obvious — just imagine a more immediate form of the diaries many soldiers keep — but it’s unprecedented because the technology is now cheap and ubiquitous enough that no one found reason to object.
Zack Brazzi, Steven Pink and Mike Moriarty occupy loose positions along the political spectrum. Brazzi, an Arabic-speaking Lebanese-American, is politically skeptical of the war, and Moriarty is the most gung ho, while Pink occupies some shifting position in the centre. All three men leave for Iraq with a mixture of fear and eagerness, and a shared desire to test themselves as voluntary, citizen soldiers.
What they record is a constantly changing mixture of fear, doubt, exhilaration and boredom common to all soldiers, though the particulars make it compelling.
Brazzi naturally makes the easiest connection with the Iraqis, to the bemused dismay of his colleagues, while Moriarty, who has the most emotionally invested, comes out the other end the most disillusioned.
They all indulge in the bitter bellyaching common to foot soldiers everywhere, but one complaint stands out. Their unit’s primary task is guarding convoys bringing in supplies, much of it destined for the lavish commissaries and kitchens run by private contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root. The men find it obscene that their lives, and those of the even less well-protected contract drivers, are put at risk trucking in so many non-essential supplies for the virtual mini-malls KBR runs — at considerable profit — on the bases.
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