War Docs

Posted in Movies by CulturalMining.com on September 16, 2009


How to Fold a Flag
Dir: Petra Epperlein, Michael Tucker

The documentary How to Fold a Flag follows the lives of four soldiers discharged from the 2/3 Field Artillery division of the US army, a group whose time in Iraq was covered in the very good 2004 documentary Gunner Palace. Their lives have drastically changed since returning home. One man who was demoted for writing a critical blog — leaving him ineligible for medical benefits — now works as a cage fighter. Another has made his home in an isolated shack. A third misses the excitement of war and hates his pointless job. A fourth man is running for Congress in Buffalo, but faces cruel attack ads from his rivals. The film also commemorates their friends who never made it home.

The documentary is flush with vibrant, almost lurid displays of red, white and blue flag motifs, expressed in fireworks, parade costumes, graves, shopping malls, news shows, flyers… the image of the stars and stripes is ubiquitous. The men’s lives provide a “what ever happened to…” follow-up to the characters we met in Gunner Palace, but it’s just not as interesting a story.

PENTAGON PAPERS TRIALThe Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Dir: Judith Ehrlich, Rick Goldsmith

Far better is the fascinating biography of Daniel Ellsberg’s life, and the role he played both in escalating the Vietnam War in the 60’s and helping to end the war in the 70’s. Ellsberg was a high-ranked Ivy League policy wonk in the US defense department, and his research helped fuel the deceptions that led to of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident (where the US falsely claimed to have been attacked by missiles from North Vietnam). This was used as a justification for ramping up US involvement in a war which eventually killed more than two million Vietnamese, as well as over 50,000 US soldiers. Eventually his disgust with US policy led him to smuggle out thousands of pages of secret documents, later known as the Pentagon Papers, and release them to Congress and the media.

The film — using contemporary TV clips, audio conversations from Nixon’s secret tapes, new interviews with many of the key players, and re-enacted scenes — is a flawlessly researched look at the man Nixon labeled “the most dangerous man in America”.

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