Duane Dudek's review in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
One year in Iraq leaves soldiers forever changed
By Duane Dudek
Journal Sentinel film critic
Oct. 5, 2006
They enlisted for different reasons and were of different opinions about the war - they mention oil and freedom, not terrorism - but have in common experiences that will haunt them for the rest of their lives and which will haunt anyone seeing this film in lesser but profound ways.
Although the war in Iraq is divisive, support for the troops is universal.
This film, directed by Deborah Scranton (and edited by "Hoop Dreams" director Steve James) is a painfully intimate snapshot of who they are, the damage they inflict on an unseen enemy and what they endure while doing so, in all its absurd, dehumanizing and ennobling contradictions.
Video cameras armed with night-vision and heat-sensitive lenses, worn on helmets and mounted on vehicles, capture what it takes to process unimaginable things - like a bloody arm dangling "like a child's mitten" pinned to a winter coat - and survive them, or not.
Traveling past an existential blur of endless rubble, troops add callous and poignant commentary, until the metallic whine of battlefield verisimilitude announces an adrenaline rush of activity.
They can eat at Burger King and Pizza Hut even while nearby, one of them with a literary flair notes, human flesh melts like cheese after an explosion. They treat Iraqis dismissively but have an abstract sympathy for individuals, usually children, who are caught in the crossfire between themselves and the bad guys.
Read the rest at JS Online!
Chris Hume's review from FilmRadar.com
THE WAR TAPES: Review by Chris Hume
Wednesday, October 4th, 2006
Deborah Scranton’s The War Tapes is an intimate and visceral trip into the landscape of war. There are no seasoned camera operators. There is no crew. There is no safety net. Instead, three soldiers are given three cameras, and they film their tour of duty over the course of a year: in the most dangerous part of the most dangerous country in the world.
Scranton allows the story to be told by the characters themselves, breaking down the wall that usually exists between the audience and the film. From deployment, to combat, to homecoming… we are in their boots.
Because there is no outside “filmmaker” intruding upon these soldiers’ lives, we get shamelessly candid interviews, and access to places that would have been totally off limits to a civilian.
A trip to the combat vehicle graveyard gives a chilling new perspective on the scope of this conflict. Row after row of charred Humvees and scorched American tanks stand in for the countless dead.
A year in Iraq leaves these three soldiers changed, haunted. It takes a steady hand to steer a film like this without losing political balance. Deborah Scranton has done just that.
So if you’re an armchair liberal, or a kneejerk conservative, with a bunch of ideological baggage, leave it at the door. When you see this film, see it as if you knew nothing of the ongoing war in Iraq and how we got there. Wipe your slate clean, and let the soldiers take you on this journey. If you want it any more real...then go enlist.
Read the entire review at FilmRadar.com
The War Tapes in the News - 08/17/06
The War Tapes has received an amazing amount of press in each city it has opened in. Here are some of the press pieces from a few of the cities where you can currently see The War Tapes on the big screen. To see the full listing of theaters across America where The War Tapes is playing, click here.
Comedy and Tragedy: 'The War Tapes' may be one of the best documentaries you've ever seen
James Digiovanna, Tucson Weekly
I can sum up The War Tapes with one word: Wow.Pittsburgh, PA
There have been a lot of documentaries about the Iraq war lately, most of them somewhat negative. It seems that many in "Hollywood" would prefer that we not toss more human bodies into the violent hell-pit where civilization was born. Boo hoo, "Hollywood." It's a soldier's job to get killed for his country's chief executive's incoherent war rationalizations. If you don't like it, move to Peacenikia and start an ultimate hacky-sack league.
The War Tapes, unlike every other documentary on this or any war, was filmed by the actual soldiers who are fighting it. It's an interesting idea which could have gone terribly wrong. Strangely, it goes terribly right, and gives a soldier's-eye picture of just what it's like to risk your life defending Halliburton.
Peril is Perpetual
Scott Tady, Beaver County Times
To get any closer to the war, you'd have to be dodging bullets.Jacksonville, NC
With unfettered access and remarkable poignancy, a group of U.S. soldiers filmed footage from the Iraqi war. Armed with cameras, they captured the confusion, carnage, bravery and apprehension as their New Hampshire-based National Guard unit found itself in the heat of battles and facing the constant threat of car bombs and mortar attacks.
Through a soldier's eyes
Chris Mazo, The Daily News
"The War Tapes" is as real as Iraq gets without going there yourself. The tension is palpable in the soldiers' faces as they stare out in the distance as their convoy barrels along. They chew lips and grip gun handles. When an improved explosive device detonates under them, the soldiers duck and swear and yell confused questions at each other. When something explodes in the distance, they glaze their relief with comments like "Every time you hear a boom, somebody is going to heaven."Cleveland, OH
Many will no doubt wonder whether "The War Tapes" comes down for or against the war. It does neither, and that’s its greatest strength. This movie is both a testament and an example of how there is little that is definitively right or wrong in this world: things are more complex than that. The soldiers themselves are both for and against the war, almost simultaneously. They bitch about being there, and some wonder whether the whole thing is a disaster. Yet they want to see combat, need a chance to prove themselves and possess a fierce desire to see the mission through to the end.
A candid, distressing study of the war
Joanna Connors, The Plain Dealer
What makes "The War Tapes" truly remarkable, though, is not the battle footage. It is the candor with which Bazzi and the other two soldiers, Spc. Mike Moriarty and Sgt. Stephen Pink, talk about themselves, the war and their mission in Iraq: driving Humvees in a convoy to protect the supply trucks owned by Halliburton subsidiary KBR, the former Kellogg Brown and RootNashville, TN
'War Tapes' takes viewer directly into battle action
Ron Wynn, Nashville City Paper
The War Tapes reveals how complicated and bizarre the daily situation in Iraq has become for the soldiers. It neither tries to be a policy vehicle nor a geopolitical exercise. Bazzi’s facility with Arabic helps him in a number of instances, and there are also many situations where the soldiers do their best to communicate with a population that is often suspicious, if not outright hostile (and that doesn’t include the roving bands of insurgents always lurking in the background).Fayetteville, NC
It’s also quite revealing to hear the reactions, feelings and responses of Sergeants Pink and Bazzi, as well as Specialist Moriarty. Whether you accept or reject their reasons for fighting, each seems quite sincere in their convictions, truly interested in the future of Iraq and determined to do the best job possible under the circumstances, then get out alive.
War & Video
Kate Cantrell, Fayetteville Online
You’re riding through the desert, crammed into a hot Humvee. Civilians dart in front of your convoy and the roadside is littered with strange vehicles — any one of which could be booby-trapped to kill you.Burlington, VT
Can you imagine?
Many soldiers can, especially those who have patrolled the road to Balad in Iraq.
War and peace: Through the lens of war
Shay Totten, Vermont Guardian
Mike Moriarty has a message for Hollywood: "I dare you to promote this film."Columbus, OH
"This film" is the critically acclaimed, award-winning documentary The War Tapes, in which soldiers are the ones shooting the footage and providing the running commentary. It’s the first war movie filmed by soldiers themselves.
Moriarty was one of those soldiers, filling 225 80-minute tapes, or 300 hours of the more than 800 hours of raw footage that he and four others took during their yearlong deployment in Iraq as part of Charlie Company, 3rd of the 172nd Infantry Regiment, which includes some Vermonters.
The regiment lived through more than 1,200 combat operations and 250 direct enemy engagements, nearly one a day, during their year of “boots on the ground."
The War Tapes is not a political film in the usual sense; rather, it allows the soldiers to reveal their politics and opinions candidly, whether they support or oppose their mission. Politically, the film remains neutral as a whole; however, there is plenty of fodder for everyone.
Soldiers document Iraqi turmoil
Frank Gabrenya, The Columbus Dispatch
The War Tapes plays as apolitically as a film about this war could. If negativity outweighs rah-rah moments, chalk that up to the natural sourness of troops in the field. The primary bitterness is directed at their roles not as combatants but as security escorts for the trucks of American contractors. They perceive that their lives are being risked for big business.
What elevates Scranton’s film above previous works shot in Iraq are the stateside interviews. The director followed her subjects home and, while maintaining a respectful distance, recorded impressions of the soldiers trying to make the adjustment back into civilian life. The footage suggests that some demons came home with them.
Send Us Your Photos! Win a Copy of Chasing Ghosts!
Paul Rieckhoff and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) are committed supporters of The War Tapes. They share our determination to bring soldier voices to the national megaphone. We encourage veterans of the current wars, and their supporters, to check out IAVA.
Paul recently published Chasing Ghosts: A Soldiers Fight for America, from Baghdad to Washington - which covers his experiences before, during, and after serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
We are giving away five signed copies of Paul's book to veterans or family members. Send us a photograph or video short from your service in Iraq or Afghanistan or your time on the home front. We'll post five submissions we like and send the five people who submitted them the five books.
Email your submissions by August 11th to firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew Moriarty - One Sleep and a Wakeup (Outtake)
In this clip, a web-exclusive outtake from THE WAR TAPES, Mike's son Matthew and his wife Randi talk about welcoming Mike home, on the day before his homecoming.
Under Zack's Helmet - Rules of Engagement (Outtake)
In this clip Zack discusses one of the ways that the Army educates its soldiers as he takes a look under his helmet at the educational cards he received by the half-way point of his deployment.