I recently had the privilege to view "The War Tapes" - a 94 minute documentary told by soldiers on deployment to Iraq. The War Tapes was born from an idea that Deborah Scranton, the director, had of melding technology and documentary film making - an idea that she describes as "living journalism."
In February 2004, Deborah received permission to embed with Charlie Company, 3/172nd Mountain Infantry, New Hampshire Army National Guard. Instead of embedding, Deborah had an idea to use technology to allow the soldiers to tell their own stories while on their yearlong deployment in Iraq. Training soldiers who "self-selected" as cinematographers, Deborah worked with the Guardsmen and their spouses and families back home to use Instant Messenger, Web Cams, Digital Cameras, etc. to record their deployment. From The War Tapes web site:
...At the heart of their questions was, why should we trust you with our experiences? My reply was, we would do this together. We would tell the story, their story, wherever it took us, no matter what. Ten soldiers volunteered – five soldiers, Zack Bazzi, Mike Moriarty, Steve Pink, Duncan Domey and Brandon Wilkins would end up filming the entire year. Each was given a one chip Sony high end consumer grade camera, tripod, microphone, various lenses and piles of blank tape, as well as my instant message handle. The tapes on average took two weeks to get from Iraq to New Hampshire. In the meantime, the soldiers uploaded quicktime files of scenes, explosions and ambushes...
The War Tapes gets to Iraq quickly enough and the soldiers are filming from their base in Iraq, out on patrol, in the middle of ambushes, witnessing the horrific aftermath of war, and comtemplating the terrible human cost.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the War Tapes is the involvement of spouses and family. Zack Bazzi's family came to America from Lebanon to be free from violence - Zack is not pro-war, but he feels he has a duty to fulfill while his mother doesn't understand why he should risk his life after all of the sacrifices the family made to flee war. And Mike Moriarty's wife's warmth and sense of humor will make her one of your favorite characters.
It could be argued that any true film about war will be anti-war; however, the intent of this documentary, I believe, is to tell the story from many different view points. Days after viewing the movie, I told Deborah that I was still thinking of Bazzi, Moriarty, and Pink.
The War Tapes is the first film made possible by Internet technology and viewers will witness combat from the perspective of those who are actually doing the fighting. It will entertain, garner laughs and certainly give you a better understanding of the complexity and emotion around combat in Iraq.
The War Tapes was selected out of thousands of submissions to be one of 59 films to compete at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. If you are in the NYC area, you can check the War Tapes site for more information about viewing.
The War Tapes will be distributed in June.