The Movies to See: Documentaries

It’s not exactly movie season. We are only 32 days until the summer solstace. The lawns and gardens call. Appropriately, Al Gore’s film debut in “An Inconvenient Truth” opens May 24th. Based on the power point presentation he had been taking around the world, the movie aims at what Gore describes as “Category 5 denial” in the American Public. Producer Laurie David was in the audience at one presentation. Pulling together professionals and philanthropists, she and director Davis Guggenheim convinced Gore to take his battle to the screen. The result has been described as quiet, methodical and hopeful at the end. Unlike the trailer and poster scare tactics to get you in front of the screen; the reviews report the movie spotlights Gore’s thorough understanding and explanations.

Participant Productions pledged to contribute their profits to a new bipartisan climate effort, Alliance for Climate Protection. Paramount Classics, having acquired the production company, has committed 5% of their domestic theatrical gross (for the entire length of the film’s release) to be donated to the Alliance. Personally, I expect this to be a treat to see Gore at his best, on a subject we all need to know more about.

Screenings for the documentary “Sir, No Sir” are only playing in 4 cities this weekend. Encino, CA, Washington, DC, Portland, OR and Austin, TX plus a one night show in Rapid City, ND on May 22nd. The film has won 4 Best Documenary awards and is nominated for 3 others. I was able to catch the film last week in Denver. There were no more than a dozen people in the theatre, who had fought traffic for a jammed Avalanche hockey game at ‘the Can’ (Pepsi Center) across the street.

The movie follows the development of the Vietnam antiwar movement from within the ranks. Starting with a physician who refused to further train medics, to the Air Force linguists who stopped translating the radio messages that were used to plan bombing raids in the last years. The primary story here is how much went on; how pervasive, exstensive and dangerous it was. One colonel had stated that by 1971, the entire armed services was infested. In addition to countless news stories and clips, the film features many home movies and pictures taken by the soldiers. If there is one problem with the movie, it is that the time spent in panning many of the still pictures is too fast.

The further impact is how this part of history has been erased from our collective memory. With the aid of Sly in the Rambo movies, the myth of the returning Vietnam vet getting spat on was more firmly sealed in our consciousness than the ground troops “fragging” their command officers in the field. As in, lobbing a grenade so that the fragments would hit the officer, sometimes causing death. That the ground war had to be stopped because the troops wouldn’t fight and they were losing too many officers. Even graduates of the academies were relinquishing their commissions to leave. The epilogue covers debunking the spitting antiwar protester:who turns out to be as much of a hoax as the Welfare Queen.

The subtle message is that in comparison to the reporting we see today, the 4th estate was clearly doing their job much better then. The film is only an hour and 25 minutes. I would have watched another showing.

Coming up Sunday night on HBO: “Baghdad ER”. A documentary about the army hospital in Baghdad; the wounded and the medical teams that face the carnage every day. The incredible efforts; professional, physical, emotional and psychological, that this branch of the military excel at. The steady arrival of wounded by chopper and ground vehicles is a daily reality. One of the producers spent time on the city streets to get away from it for a few days out of the 2 months he was there.

The film has been described as graphic and upsetting to the point that any Vets with PTSD should not watch it. No surprise, the worst of the gore ended up getting cut. The military has been showing it on bases around the world. A few here are showing it around the clock. One mother of a soldier who dies in the movie became involved in the production phase because it helped her to know what had happened at the end. Other family members have also praised it. Given the extent that the military totally supported this movie and HBO sponsored it without restricting the film makers, I would encourage anyone who can, to find it on the local listings. There is a former patient out there that I will remember all too well when I see it. A Vietnam RN veteran, PTSD had ruined her life as much as it did the chopper crews and ground troops that I have met.

Last is a documovie due for release June 23rd. “The Road to Guantanamo” is a dramatized documentary about 3 British citizens who were held in the prison for two years without charges. They were released with no formal charges ever made, probably since their crime was trying to get to a wedding in Pakistan just as the US began the invasion of Afghanistan.
The film is being screened in LA, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, DC and NYC between May 22nd and June 19th.

On further reflection, growing season is a good time for movies like these. Save some of that dirt work and planting to process the pain. Then we can get really get our hands dirty cleaning it all up.

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5 Responses to The Movies to See: Documentaries

  1. Ginny

    Thanks for this. I am going to try to go see “The Road to Guantanamo” next week. And I must say alhtough it’s getting panned by the “critics” I loved book and look forward to seeing the movie – The DaVinci Code.

  2. Mass says:

    I saw The DaVinci Code this afternoon. Very faithful to the book.

    As many of these movies, it has been way too much hyped by the critics in one way or another.

    If you go and see it as a good adventure movie (Indiana Jones, National Treasure), you will have a good time. People who look for more in the movie than there is there (particularly when it comes either metaphysics) will be disappointed because it was never there in the first place.

    In brief, I had a good time (being partial too because the movie is largely in Paris).

  3. Suebob says:

    I am torn about this movie. I am already in such deep despair about global warming…I don’t know if I could take seeing it without Prozac.

  4. Ginny in CO says:

    Suebob,
    Check out the link to the site and reviews. My impression is that it actually leaves people very hopeful. It’s a little like cancer, the diagnosis may seem grim, but it really clears the mind of useless fear and gives it the specifics of what needs to be done to conquer it.