The War Tapes Blog

The War Tapes: The World Premiere

« Previous Entry | Next Entry »

The World Premiere

Any of you who were at yesterday's Premiere, thank you for coming and now spread the word -- we need to make sure this country sees this movie, and we're relying on word-of-mouth. Tell your friends, your coworkers. Write down your thoughts and send them to me and we'll put them on the blog. You, now, have become the voice for the soldiers in the film.

For those of you who weren't there, the 900 seat theater for the Premiere was packed, restless, a little uncertain about what they were going to experience, anticipating.

After Peter Scarlett introduced Deborah and Robert, the lights went down and the audience started off calm, but then you could feel the theater start to lurch forward as hundreds of people inched towards the front of their seats. There were moments half the audience laughed and half the audience recoiled at the laughter, and moments where the theater shut down in painful silence. There's a charming scene with Pink and his girlfriend, Lindsay, where all the tension came pouring out, and the whole theater rattled with shared laughter. The different political thoughts of the different soldiers brought out catcalls of support and disagreement from different parts of the audience. And you could feel the heartbeat of the theater as the soldiers returned home, trying to make new sense of themselves in their old lives.

After the multiple waves of standing ovations, hardly anyone left. Everyone wanted to sit there, turn it over in their heads, talk about it, hear Deborah and Robert May and Steve James and the soldiers talk about it.

When Mike, Steve, Zack, Brandon, Duncan, Lindsay and Randi got on stage, the audience stood again, spontaneously, clapping and overwhelmed at what they'd done.

The questions started, asking the soldiers how they emotionally lived with being soldiers and carrying cameras, asking about editing, asking personal questions about their views of joining the military. In so many of the open-ended questions there was a simple hunger for more -- more evidence, more stories, and more clarity. We're so used to seeing movies with a particular agenda, instead of, as David Weinberger called it, "multipartisan" movies, that there was a hunger, that no honest answer could sate, to find out, well, what the trick was. What the agenda was. Something solid and easy, some way to put these three very different men's very different lives and experiences and responses in some thematic box. Its not there. As Deborah and Steve (Steve James, the Editor) said, they wanted to tell the story of these three men, and the stories of any human are deep, difficult, beautiful, and anything but boxable.

Someone in the front row started yelling in the middle of a question. I couldn't hear entirely, but the I think it was along the lines of, "ITS NOT ABOUT THE OIL. TELL THEM ITS NOT ABOUT THE OIL." and then there were counter-yells from the back of the theater, telling him to sit down, and then a third man, broad shouldered, sitting in the front row with a white T-shirt, turned around to the entire audience, the shouter in the front and the shouters in the back, and said decisively, "ITS COMPLEX." "ITS COMPLEX," he repeated, and this seemed to bring some calm.

But the personal combativeness, in some way, make sense -- the movie invites you to engage, not just watch and absorb. And what's a good Premiere without a little tumult.

Some more reports from the blogosphere:

From Dan Ngo:

Dave [and I] got pretty lucky to get into the Premiere of The War Tapes, a documentary about three soldier's deployments to Iraq, all filmed and narrated by the soldiers themselves. It was a very very raw film and very interesting to finally see a true soldier's perspective. It was like a really blurry to define this film as anti-war like most documentaries about the Iraq war do. It just simply showed the soldiers thoughts and what they were doing. There were many funny moments in the film, as well as serious gut-wrenching moments. I think it helped me in my mindset as I prepare to soon set off in my own journey to fulfill my duty to my country.

And from Sean Coon;

The air of the theatre was chock-full of tangible anticipation, as the audience verbally spatted with itself before, during and after the screening. What else would you expect? We’re waist deep in a war that has spiraled out of (non)control into random acts of sectarian violence, kidnappings and assassinations.
But no matter your position on the war in Iraq, The War Tapes is a must see. It isn’t propaganda for empire building and it isn’t anti-war material. The film is 90-minutes of brilliantly edited (from 1200+ hours of raw footage), first person perspective of three National Guard soldiers who agreed to film their year-long tour of Iraq. The narrative twists and turns through adrenaline rushes, moments of self-reflection and gut-wrenching honest discourse.

It’s nothing but real, human storytelling of real, human beings.