People, myself included, like to lament the lack of media choices in a production environment dominated by large multinational corporations, but the truth is that with a little access and a DV camera, filmmakers are out in the field making revealing and unprecedented movies like Gunners Palace (trailer). GP follows the activities of a US Field Artillery unit (the “Gunners”) in Iraq for two months in 2003-2004. No politics. No real point-of-view on the part of the filmmakers. Just a glimpse into what it was like soldiering in Iraq after “major combat operations” had ceased and “minor combat operations” had begun.
This soldiers’ perspective is a rare one in popular media and is a valuable contribution to anyone who’s interested in a more comprehensive view of the war in Iraq. But the main takeaway from the film for me was not the completing of a puzzle, but of the near impossibility of any sort of comprehensive perspective. From the soldiers’ POV, they’re just trying to do their jobs, stay alive, and keep some level of sanity in their lives, not too much different than anyone else except, you know, it’s literally life and death for them. Their comprehension of the whys and hows of their place in the grand scheme of things is necessarily somewhat limited.
At the same time, you’ve got people in the US reading the newspaper or watching stuff on TV about the war. Maybe they’re even reading soldiers’ diaries, exchanging letters with soldiers in Iraq, or watching films like Gunners Palace, but their perspective is still a largely outside one. And then you’ve got the higher ups in the military and government whose jobs entail keeping the big picture in mind and the realities of troop life sometimes isn’t on their radar. The human mind is a wonderfully flexible tool, but it wasn’t meant to deal with such a vast array of information on so many different scales. It’s a wonder the situation over there isn’t more screwed up than it currently is.
Gunner Palace opens in limited release in the US on March 4th.