Why We FightReviewed By Chris Wilson
Posted 03/30/06 17:34:04
Life is all about learning, right? And I continue learning that documentaries don’t have to be boring. Case in point: Why We Fight, a recent film by relatively unknown director Eugene Jarecki. The title is an allusion to a series of Frank Capra directed pro-war propaganda films from the 40s. Why We Fight is framed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1960 farewell address in which he warns of the rise of a “Military Industrial Complex,” essentially an economic machine run by and for the profit of war. By comparing Eisenhower’s foreboding words with US military actions and foreign policy from then through now, Why We Fight looks at what ways Eisenhower’s words have come true.The film revolves around several personal stories, such as the pilots of the first bomb strike in the most recent Iraq war, a young man signing up for the military due to his lack of financial options and a retired police officer whose son was killed in the 9/11 attacks. These personal stories are woven within historical footage, video of recent world events and interviews with politicians, analysts and military personnel to name a few. Add to this amusing and often times stirring music, and what comes out is a completely engrossing and exciting film that replaces Jean Claude Van-Damme with John McCain.
On the surface this might sound suspiciously similar to the recent Michael Moore film Fahrenheit 9/11. But the difference between these films is monumental. Why We Fight, while still containing opinion based material and a specific slant, comes across as a well-constructed argument with thorough research. Fahrenheit 9/11 feels more like a political rant, even bordering on being a propaganda film.
Of course part of the reason I’m able to take Jarecki’s film seriously is because he’s not in it! Moore, nearly always on screen or narrating the action, seems to act as a puppeteer in his film, manipulating every emotion and image to get across his views. Regardless of whether I agree with him, that’s distasteful documentary filmmaking. I question whether his films are about looking for truth or finding his own fame and glory. Why place yourself so prominently if that’s not the reason? Thankfully, Jarecki never appears or is heard. He takes the words of others and juxtaposes it with meaningful footage to make his argument. Like those School House Rock cartoons – only more sobering.Regardless of your political leaning, Why We Fight should be appreciated for the well crafted answer seeking documentary it is. It’s meant to get people actively thinking and talking about the role of military action in the world and how economics tie into it. It accomplishes that but moreover the film possesses a beautiful artistry in the way it weaves together its story lines and history. One might say it has a certain lyrical quality. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, far from sucking, Why We Fight pretty much rocks.
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