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Monica Michlin (Université Paul Valéry Montpellier)





Political Documentaries against the Iraq War: Radical Discourse, Radical Aesthetics, Radical Transmedia Practices

In the wake of recent scholarly work on the post-9/11 documentary, I will argue that in the lead-up to the Iraq War and in the early years of the occupation of Iraq, political documentary stood almost alone in the broader ecology of the media in exposing official lies fast forgotten in the flow of television images. Contrary to the corporate media, radical filmmakers continued to address their publics as “citizen-viewers” (Jonathan Kahana), and mobilized the documentary as a forum for democratic resistance. I will focus not only on these antiwar documentaries’ political discourse (on the media and on war), but on their practice as reflexively radical (Jane Gaines) – in their often hybrid aesthetics, and in their embrace of transmedia activism made possible by the digital turn. Their overt engagement, as opposed to supposed ideals of journalistic “objectivity,” often caused their status as “documentaries” to be called into question, prompting critical conversations about their indexicality or evidenciary value. We will see how these films thus reenergized debates concerning the role of the archive, of montage, of voice-over, of crossovers with reality TV and other media forms, (etc.), as they re-galvanized the documentary genre, its production and distribution, while opening or reopening investigation into the Iraq war itself.




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Aufderheide, Patricia. “The Changing Documentary Marketplace.” Cineaste, 30.3 (Summer 2005): 24-28.

_____. “‘Your Country, My Country’: How Films About the Iraq War Construct Publics”, Framework, 48.2 (Fall 2007): 56-65.

_____. Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford UP, 2007.

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_____. “How the Pentagon Spread Its Message: Audio, Video, and Documents that Show How the Military’s Talking Points Were Disseminated.” The New York Times.com, April 20, 2008.

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_____. Documentary Display: Re-Viewing Nonfiction Film and Video. London: Wallflower, 2008.

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_____. (eds). The Rhetoric of the New Political Documentary (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2008.

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_____. “Say Cheese! Operation Iraqi Freedom on Film,” Cineaste, 32.1 (2006), 30-36.

_____. “Question Time: The Iraq War Revisited.” Cineaste 32.4 (2007): 12-17.

_____.  “Bodies of Evidence: New Documentaries on Iraq War Veterans”, Cineaste, 34.1 (2008): 26-31

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Gaines, Jane M.  “Political Mimesis,” in Collecting Visible Evidence, ed. Jane M. Gaines & Michael Renov (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 93.

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Gaines, Jane M. “The Production of Outrage: The Iraq War and the Radical Documentary Tradition,” Framework 48.2 (Fall 2007): 36-55.

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Alive Day Memories. Dirs. Jon Alpert & Ellen Goosenberg Kent. USA. HBO, 2007.

Arlington West. Dirs. Peter Dudar and Sally Marr. USA, 2005. 74’.

Baghdad E.R. Dirs. Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill. USA. HBO, 2006. 64’.

Battleground: 21 Days on the Empire’s Edge. USA. Dir. Stephen Marshall. 2004.

The Blood of My Brother: A Story of Death in Iraq. USA. Dir. Andrew Berends. 2005. 90’.

Body of War. Dirs. Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue. USA. 2007. Docurama Films. 87’.

Breaking Ranks. Dir. Michelle Mason. Canada. Screen Siren, 2006. Streaming. 46’.

Collateral Murder. Wikileaks.

Control Room. Dir Jehane Noujaim. USA. Tartan Video, 2004. 84’.

Dirty Wars. Dir. Rick Rowley. Writers: David Riker, Jeremy Scahill. 2013.

Fahrenheit 9/11. Dir. Michael Moore. USA. Lionsgate Films, 2004. DVD Studio Canal, 2006. 122’.

The Fog of War. Dir. Errol Morris. 2003. DVD Columbia Tristar, 2004. 107’.

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib. Dir. Rory Kennedy. USA. HBO, 2007. DVD. 78’.

The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends. Dir. Patricia Foulkrod. Plum Pictures, 2006. DVD Universal, 2006. 72’.

Guerre, Mensonge, et Vidéo. Dir. François Bringer. France. Production LCP-Assemblée Nationale / Point du Jour. 2013. Broadcast on LCP (France), July 15, 2013. 53’.

Gunner Palace. Dirs. Petra Epperlein, and Michael Tucker. USA. Nomados, 2004. DVD Palm Pictures, 2005. 85’.

Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire. USA, 2006. 71’.

Hubris. Rachel Maddow Show, February 18, 2013. NBC Universal. 42’.

The Invisible War. Dir. Kirby Dick. ITV, 2012.

Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers. Dir. Robert Greenwald. USA, Brave New Films, 2006. DVD Disinformation Ltd, 2006. 75’.

Iraq in Fragments. Dir. James Longley. USA. 2006. DVD Drakes Pictures, 2007. 94’.

Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. Dirs. Mark Achbar & Peter Wintonick. 1993. DVD Zeitgeist Video, 2002.

Militainment, Inc. Dir. Roger Stahl. 2007. Streaming.

My Country, My Country. Dir. Laura Poitras. PBS P.O.V.: Season 19, Episode 12. 2006. 90’.

Noam Chomsky: Distorted Morality (America’s War on Terror). Dir. John Junkerman. USA. 2003. DVD. 51’.

No End in Sight. Dir. Charles Ferguson. USA. 2007. 102’.

Not In Our Name. Dir. Philippe Borrel. France. Dissidents & Arte Video, 2006. DVD. 57’.

Occupation: Dreamland. Dirs. Ian Olds & Garrett Scott. USA. 2005. Streaming. 78’.

Outfoxed. Dir. Robert Greenwald. USA. Brave New Films, 2004. 75’.

The Prisoner, or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair. Dirs. Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker. 2006.

The Real Face of Occupation. 2004. Part of the Shocking and Awful: A Grassroots Response to War and Occupation series. Deep Dish Satellite Network. Streaming.

The Road to Fallujah. Dir. Mark Manning. 2009. DVD Global Access Media, 2011. 85’.

Shut Up and Sing. Dir. Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck. 2006. DVD. 93’.

Sir! No Sir! Dir. David Zeiger. USA. Displaced Films, 2005. DVD New Video, 2006. 85’.

Standard Operating Procedure. Dir. Errol Morris. USA. 2008. DVD Sony 2008. 118’.

Taxi to the Dark Side. Dir. Alex Gibney. USA 2007. DVD. 106’.

Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War. Dir. Robert Greenwald. 2003. DVD Metropolitan, 2005. 83’.

War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Dirs. Loretta Alper & Jeremy Earp. Narrated by Sean Penn. 2007.

The War Tapes. Dir. Deborah Scranton. 2006. DVD New Video Group, 2007.

The World According to Bush. Dir. Willaim Karel. 2004. DVD MGM Home Ent., 2004.

Why We Fight. Dir. Eugene Jarecki. BBC Storyville, 2005. DVD Axiom Films, 2005.

WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception. Dir. Danny Schechter. Globalvision, 2004. DVD Blackhorse Entertainment, 2006.