Friday, November 16, 2007

Iraq at the Movies

Hollywood, breaking with its convention of refusing to make a movie about a war until it is over, has produced a string of fiction films about Iraq: In the Valley of Elah, The Kingdom, and Rendition. None of them has done well at the box office, and the newer Lions for Lambs and the soon-to-be-released Redacted are not expected to make much money either.

Pundits are quick to blame the audience for the failures of the fictional Iraq movies, assuming that they go to the movies only for the pleasure of escapism. Americans "want war movies to have a slam-bang adventure feel to them . . . But Iraq is a difficult war to portray in a kind of rah-rah-rah, exciting way" (Lew Harris, qtd. in AFP, "Hollywood Is Casualty of War as Movie-goers Shun Iraq Films,", 9 November 2007).

But that can't be true. Otherwise, what explains the success of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 in 2004, long before the majority of Americans decisively turned against the war?

A. O. Scott of the New York Times, in my view, gets the real reason why Hollywood has failed Iraq: "the actual politics of the war," and debates in the USA and Iraq about it, are "absent from these movies" -- in other words, they are "not political enough" ("Iraq at the Movies," New York Times, 28 October 2007). Hollywood, a bastion of Democrats, is at the bottom of its heart as condescending to common people as Republicans at the White House.

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