Saturday, August 21, 2004

The War of Documentaries

Robert Greenwald releases another film that examines the lies and exaggerations that led us to war in Iraq.

Robert Greenwald’s latest documentary, Uncovered: The War on Iraq, takes on the administration’s pop-eyed rhetoric, intelligence-data manipulation, and low-blow tactics against dissenters. Made in collaboration with MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress, Uncovered is a blistering prosecutorial brief against the Bush administration’s case for war in Iraq, though a deeply noncinematic documentary. Talking heads flap away well over an acceptable words-per-minute speed limit, dizzying montages of administration officials flash by, and viewers will wish for a rewind button and a little white space amid the thicket of words. Were it not for the reliable elegance of a chronological structure to carry us through, Uncovered would be an insurmountable slog.

But as a rebuttal to the administration’s version of history, the film is devastating. As he’s proven in Outfoxed, his takedown of the right-wing, “fair and balanced” FOX News Channel, Greenwald is fascinated by the rhetorical battle being fought in U.S. politics, this war of words that shapes our understanding of the uncertain past, shifting present, and wildly contested future. Greenwald sharply delineates his adversaries; his array of experts include diplomatic, intelligence, and security personnel with staggering amounts of experience, going up against the administration and portrayed in collages of sound clips. You could argue that Greenwald stacks the deck by not allowing the administration to speak live as well. But you could also argue that the administration has done such a devastating job of co-opting the mainstream media, threatening and discrediting government opponents, and bamboozling us with its alarmist rhetoric that it’s hogged more than its fair share of the spotlight. [The American Prospect]

Now if we could just get The Princess Diaries out of the Megaplex…