Monday, February 11, 2008

Impaired Vision

I'm not as well-versed in current events as I should be, but I know enough to know that American is on the verge of imploding, or possibly exploding, if the innumerable enemies we've made "saving the world" take action against us. I know how important this upcoming election is. I dutifully voted in the Illinois primary, even though Illinois always goes Democrat and would of course pick Barack Obama because he's from here and is our senator. I'm glad that a lot of Americans are finally waking up. I don't follow politics too closely, but I've never seen the primaries get so much coverage. It's electric. And it's about time people are realizing how bad things are. Maybe too little too late, though.

I don't hate America. In fact, I love America. I just hate our government and our policies and all of the stupid mistakes we've made, particularly during the Era of the Moron, or the current Bush administration. Really? He got elected for a second term? I'm still in disbelief. Anyway, I don't get how America can be so arrogant. We've only been around for a tiny fraction of the time that most nations have been around. In roughly 230 years, we've managed to wreak so much havoc. There are two illuminating documentaries that scrutinize our most grievous military/political errors - Errol Morris' The Fog of War (Vietnam), released in 2003, and Charles Ferguson's No End in Sight (Iraq), released in 2007. Yes, I love Michael Moore and think his films are brilliant, but it's a much different approach, one not necessarily geared toward mass, relatively unbiased education. Don't get me wrong, I really do love him. I just think that people seeing his films already have their minds made up. Their political views are decided. His films aren't necessarily about converting as much as amplifying your pre-existing beliefs, one way or another. His films are also more manipulative, but I don't think that's necessarily bad. People need to be manipulated out of apathy sometimes.

But if I had to pick two documentaries that are imperative for all Americans to see, the two most essential, I'd choose The Fog of War and No End in Sight. These films have very strong viewpoints, but they're accessible to a diverse audience. They're not abrasive like Michael Moore, but they still pack a furious punch. These films can definitely convert people. I won't really talk about The Fog of War anymore, because this is my review of No End in Sight. The last thing I'll say is that The Fog of War might just be the best documentary I've ever seen, and it's one of my top ten favorite films of all time. I can't wait to see Errol Morris' new film that's supposed to be released this year. It's called Standard Operating Procedure and examines the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. I smell Oscar. Errol Morris is the best documentarian ever.

No End in Sight mainly focuses on the beginning of the war in Iraq - the policies, decisions, and chain of events that have led us to the disaster we're stuck in today - but it's very comprehensive and takes you basically to the present (the present at the end of filming at least). I didn't know most of this information, so watching this was eye-opening. It made me sick. Everything just went so wrong. And a really small group of ignorant people were making blind choices that would affect millions. They still are. Most of the people interviewed in the documentary describe being intentionally kept out of the loop. There were good people, knowledgeable people, who could have helped the situation, but they were constantly thwarted. It's so depressing. We're doing to Iraq what we did to Vietnam. We totally decimated Vietnam. And for what? The United States has a tendency to fight for so long that we forget what we were fighting for in the first place. Now, we're destroying Iraq.

Why can't we just get our noses out of everyone else's business? Who made us the world police? Why is it our "duty" to bring democracy to other countries? What's so great about democracy when America is as bad as it is now? It just floors me that the government thinks we have the authority, the God-given right, to terrorize people. That's right. Americans are terrorists. That's how the rest of the world sees us. I don't understand how we can spend so much money and effort fixing another country when there's so much crime, poverty, homelessness, disease, education problems, you name it, in our own country. We certainly have no business throwing stones.

But we're so humanitarian, right? We just want to help people and bring them the beautiful gift of democracy. What about all the genocide that we let slide? Where were we when people were being slaughtered in Rwanda? I guess we only care when our economic interests are involved. If there was oil in Rwanda, we'd have been right there, instead of being air-lifted out with the embassy dog. I know I'm getting carried away, and I'm not sure I should be waving my politics around this much (extremely liberal, by the way, if you couldn't tell), but I'm so amped up after watching this film. That's how powerful it is, and it's a remarkable thing when a film does that.

No End in Sight was written, produced, and directed by first-time filmmaker Charles Ferguson. What an extraordinary accomplishment. He's obviously very passionate, but his approach is very level-headed, so you really pay attention. It seems like an unbiased recitation of the facts, and it basically is, although you can still discern his own political views. The material is wonderfully and masterfully handled. The aesthetics are great - the editing, music, cinematography. It's so meticulously constructed, and the combination of footage and interviews is perfect.

No End in Sight should be mandatory viewing for all Americans. They can start by showing it in schools. It should win the Oscar for Best Documentary this year. It's informative, provocative, moving, chilling, and downright terrifying. It's everything a great documentary should be and more. It reminds me very much of Errol Morris and specifically The Fog of War. Trust me when I say that's the highest compliment I could give a film.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)

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