Since Homer's time, storytellers have struggled with the challenge of how to describe the experience of war. The War Tapes suggests that the best storytellers aren't looking on from an emotional and physical detach-they're on the battlefield. Using footage shot by three members of the National Guard deployed in Iraq, Deborah Scranton has crafted a documentary that is humorous, gut wrenching, and deeply authentic. This is war as experienced by its most intimate players. Sergeant Steve Pink is a wisecracking carpenter who aspires to be a writer. Sergeant Zack Bazzi is a Lebanese-American college student who loves to travel and is fluent in Arabic. Specialist Mike Moriarty is a father who seeks honor and redemption. Part journal, part jokebook, part witness, The War Tapes offers a view of war rarely seen-from the inside out. We are illuminated on what the soldiers are thinking every step of the way, from their views on the media's coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom to how they miss loved ones back home. Caught between the bravery and the hypocrisy of war, the men allow us to step into a their daily lives, which can be both beautiful and shocking to watch. Audiences will be hard-pressed to find a more objective look into the lives of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
Director's Statement Collapse
We all have pivotal defining moments in our lives. For me, one of those was stumbling across James Agee and Walker Evan's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Agee's philosophy of "living journalism," of getting close enough to hurt, of investing the core of your being in the lives of those you are documenting, became my mantra. To get their stories, you have to give of yourself, confront the wall of "objectivity," and smash through it. It's about being human first, and a journalist and filmmaker second. And it is only when we are a human being first that we approach truth. On February 12, 2004, I got an offer from the New Hampshire National Guard to embed as a filmmaker. I called the public affairs officer and asked if I could give cameras to the soldiers instead. He said yes…but it would be up to me to get soldiers to volunteer to work with the project. Less than two weeks later, I was on plane down to Fort Dix, New Jersey. I stepped out in front of those 180 men and told them of my vision. I was met with a hailstorm of questions. Are you for the war? Are you against the war? What are your politics? How are you going to take and twist our words? What do you want us to film? Why should we believe you? At the heart of their questions was: Why should we trust you with our experiences? My reply was: We would do this together. We would tell the story, their story, wherever it took us, no matter what. Ten soldiers volunteered. Five soldiers-Zack Bazzi, Mike Moriarty, Steve Pink, Duncan Domey and Brandon Wilkins-would end up filming the entire year. Each was given a one-chip Sony high-end consumer grade camera, tripod, microphone, various lenses, and piles of blank tape, as well as my instant messaging (IM) handle. The tapes on average took two weeks to get from Iraq to New Hampshire. In the meantime, the soldiers uploaded QuickTime files of scenes, explosions, and ambushes. We chatted on IM about what had happened, together refining how best to tell the story. The experience was a mesh of interplays of present, future, perspective, and reverberating memories. We filmed events in real time. We conducted interviews 24 hours later. These interviews were followed by more interviews months after incidents. This became a mutual journey. I believe the power of film-image and sound-lies in its ability to evoke empathy. If war negates humanity, then film-maybe especially film that shows war from the inside-can ensure that, even when we fight, we hold on to and bear witness to our humanity. We found a way in this film to smash through that wall. We found the possibility of empathy in the middle of war.
About the Director(s)Collapse
First time feature film director, single mother and former U.S. ski team member Deborah Scranton lives on her family's farm in New Hampshire with her six-year old son Benjamin. The War Tapes grew out of her locally acclaimed WWII documentary, Stories from Silence, Witness to War - and her own commitment to using new technologies to give people the power to create their own media and to tell their own stories. Declining an offer from the New Hampshire National Guard to embed herself in Iraq, she instead directed The War Tapes using near-perpetual instant messaging to answer questions, share techniques, and explore stories with the soldiers that filmed their very personal experiences. Previously, Scranton spent 15 years working as a television reporter and freelance producer at MTV, ESPN, CBS Sports and the ABC and FOX affiliates in Salt Lake City, Utah. She graduated from Brown University with a degree in Semiotics.