Director: Rick Rowley
Nominated: Documentary Feature
In some ways I’m quite surprised this film got made let alone nominated as its subject matter couldn’t be more controversial if it tried. Dirty Wars documents the journey of the investigative reporter, Jeremy Scahill as he tries to uncover the hidden wars taking place under the control of the JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) throughout the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. What makes it controversial I think is that it is an American setting out to expose American wrongdoings under the banner of the war on terror. However having said that there is also the feel of a conspiracy theory to it as well.
Some of the images are harrowing, particularly of the bodies of dead children, some as young as one, made all the more disturbing when you remember that this isn’t a feature film and that isn’t makeup but real people who really suffered.
Dirty Wars is compelling but I couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable watching it as it raises a number of unsettling questions, not just about the war and how American troops are conducting themselves, but also about the level of complicity of the American Government – and not just under George Bush’s presidency but the current administration under Obama.
Last year Zero Dark Thirty (2012, Kathryn Bigelow) was nominated throughout the awards season – a film charting the capture and ultimate kill of the Western world’s public enemy number one – Osama Bin Laden – signaling the end of the war on terror (if you’re naive enough to believe that) and then this year we get Dirty Wars which asks the audience to take a deeper look into what is still happening around the world. The war on terror hasn’t ended and if you take the information gathered by Scahill in Dirty Wars at face value then it appears to have increased not only in intensity but in number of targets and locations as well.
It’s a very slick, polished, well-directed and edited documentary and an extremely interesting one to watch. It did make me question a number of things but I did take it all in with a sense of skepticism because after all this is only one side of a multi-faceted and complex story. Dirty Wars is definitely worth watching despite being somewhat disquieting. But then maybe that is the very reason to watch it instead of passively accepting everything the controlling governments of the Western world say is fact.