Director Amir Bar-Lev’s latest documentary takes on the controversial figure of Pat Tillman, the polarizing NFL star turned Afghan War casualty who was killed by friendly fire, despite what the military initially claimed.
Bar-Lev presents Tillman’s story and how his bereaved family was mistreated by the same government who made their son a martyr with a disturbing honesty that is sure to bring back uncomfortable feelings about the war.
“The greatest review that we got was when Pat’s family told us that they were happy with the film,” Bar-Lev told Metro.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of The Tillman Story is how much incriminating footage Bar-Lev was able to find. There are even scenes from a congressional hearing in which government officials ranking as high as then-defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld lied about knowing the cause of Tillman’s death and were not only cleared of taking responsibility, but weren’t even properly questioned about the issue.
“None of that footage was difficult to obtain, which in itself is a tragedy,” said Bar-Lev. “When people see some of the clips that we have, they’ll probably think that we got it from some Deep Throat garage in a paper bag or something. Nothing could be further from the truth. We got this footage from the mainstream press’ archives. Why that stuff ended up on the cutting room floor of the major networks, I think speaks to one of the larger concerns that the film hopes to address.”
The Tillman Story is a remarkably honest portrayal of a difficult story. Though it might clearly be on the side of the Tillman family, the director only leaned that way after a great deal of research.
“I don’t think that the job of a filmmaker is to sit and look at an issue and kind of bean count. You know, ‘One fact for the Tillmans and one fact for the government,’” admitted Bar-Lev.
“My job is to spend enough time with a story to gather an informed opinion. If somebody wants to present a different point of view, I’m willing to hear it. But until I’m convinced otherwise, I’ll defend my opinion.”