Despite various efforts by renowned filmmakers, there is still a shortage of strong, conclusive and comprehensive documentaries on the Iraq war. We can barely know the reality of the situation on the ground in Iraq. The documentary called “I Am an American Soldier: One Year in Iraq with the 101st Airborne” (n.d) is a clear indication of the efforts being done by filmmakers to try and explain the situation in Iraq. The documentary looks at the “real people who are over there fighting in the American Army, and through a series of interviews what they really believe” (Brunton n.d). The 1hr 40min documentary was directed by the well-known John Lawrence. Surprisingly, this is John’s first ever documentary: this is a sterling performance considering that this was his debut documentary.
In this paper, we aim at analyzing John’s incredible movie. We will be looking at various aspects of the movie ranging from the strategies used to keep the audience glued to their seats as well as the larger social, historic and cultural aspects of the movie.
There has been a trend in the film industry where filmmakers dedicate a large portion of their time on Iraq. Most of the filmmakers “spend lengthy periods of time with a single military unit serving in Iraq” (Contactmusic n.d). Never before have we experienced this kind of extensive filming of the war in Iraq. This is a new genre of film that highlights how portable the filming equipment can be and how such equipment is consistently fascinating. In addition, this genre of film also shows the durable nature of the war in Iraq.
The documentary views the American occupation through the eyes of the soldiers. John covers the whole operation from the start to its very end. According to Rovi, “The firsthand perspective offered by the picture enables John to provide an intimate view of battlefield occurrences and individualized experiences, unfiltered through media bias” (Rovi n.d). The men in the film describe how it is hard to maintain their emotional bonds with the collective risk at hand. They vividly narrate the reality of what they faced when they served in the U.S military.
The documentary is most appealing to mature audiences. As for the youth, the film sound as a discouragement to those who admire the military and would wish to work as soldiers in future. The film is a chronological story of the soldiers covering their entire mission to and from Iraq. For instance, the renowned 101st Airborne Division soldiers are followed from the time they prepare to leave for Iraq, “deployment in Iraq, and then their return home” (Brunton n.d).
John has made good use of interviews in the documentary to bring about a personal perspective in the film. This makes the audience connect with the soldiers and even sympathize and empathize with them. The soldiers poze a lot of confidence when departing for the war but when returning back home, they all sound weary and scared. For example, the fear inspiring stories of colleagues who were trapped in a car that was hit by an IDE highlight the realities of the battle field – you should be ready to die at any time.
However I am concerned by the documentary when it goes on to explain that “that it’s ultimately their sheer bravery that outweighs nearly every other aspect of the film as it focuses on the part of the film where a soldier is recovering from having his leg amputated saying that he’s got another one”(Brunton n.d).
Brunton tries his best to show bring about a balance of the stories in the documentary. But this does not succeed. Truly speaking, once you see the “the hopelessly over hyped and negative aspects of the training, the terrible lives they lead while over there and the horrendous decisions they face, the impact they have on others and the impact the war has on them,” (Brunton n.d) you fail to find sense in the so called American Spirit. The movie highlights some of the beliefs by the American people. It shows how the Americans can go to whatever extent to protect their own and deliver the world from the hands of terrorists. However it shows how an error in judgment can also lead to the deaths of innocent individuals.
John has done what most documentary specialists have failed to accomplish. Most of the documentaries on Iraq focus on “the more obviously conflicted soldiers, the thousands of National Guardsmen who never thought they’d be doing more than paying for college tuition by serving on the weekends” (Contactmusic n.d). Contrary to that, John focuses on the well trained and pretty tough professional soldiers; but on a pretty tough knot of professional soldiers. This documentary shows exactly how soldiers can be committed towards a common course despite their differences…
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