Monday, November 14, 2011

What I Saw: Incident In New Baghdad

What I Saw:  Incident In New Baghdad

Everyone has an opinion about war. For some it is the ultimate proof of patriotism. For others, it is an affront to a peace-loving society. But it’s truly unusual to see anyone change their opinion from one stance to another.

Incident In New Baghdad gives us such an opportunity. Ethan McCord came from a military family, and intentionally joined the infantry to get the “real army experience.” But after a particularly gruesome attack in Baghdad, and the response of his military superiors after the fact, his perspective begins to change. The man who so desperately wanted to be part of the system now realizes that we are all part of the war machine, whether we like it or not.

The 22 minute documentary brought two moments of realization for me. The first was the repression, and unintentional later awakening, of our common humanity. Trained to view and speak of the enemy as less than human, even in death scenes which are comparable to horror films, the danger is always that something will break through the facade. For McCord, it is the sight of kids among the attack’s injured, and the parental instinct to recognize them as similar to his own children back home. Director James Spione brilliantly reenacts this comparison through his visual choices during the retelling.

The second realization involves a military psychology that rejects the clinical version most civilians are used to. When McCord asks to talk to someone about his experiences, his commanding officer cautions against seeking help, demanding that he instead tough it out. We instinctively know that denying such care is wrong, but somehow the film also reveals how the commanding officer is right: One cannot continue to be a successful warrior once you have stopped dehumanizing the enemy. There is a fundamental option that must be made between two different psychologies, and in the end McCord has chosen the braver of the two.

Oscar Chances:

In addition to winning awards at the Tribecca, Rhode Island and Tallgrass film festivals, Incident In New Baghdad is on the short list of films for the 84th Oscar Documentary Short category, and I am currently predicting that it will easily receive a nomination for its powerful and timely storytelling. To learn more about the film and see if it is playing at a festival near you, check the website HERE.

My Lamb Score: 4 ½ out of 5 Lambs
What is a lamb score? Click HERE to learn more.
Read more of my reviews HERE.
See Documentary Short predictions for various years HERE.
If you’re into documentaries, you might also like the Documentary Features.
If you’re really into shorts, check out the Animated Shorts and Live Action Shorts.
As always, check the Tracker Pages in the upper right hand corner of this blog for the most updated predictions in all categories!

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