When people ask me what my favorite documentary is, I feel pretentious. It's like they're expecting me to respond with a French accent and talk to them about some indie flick only five people have seen. It might not be their intentions to make me feel that way, but I'm usually very defensive about it and just quickly answer with , "Hoop Dreams". I've only seen half of it.
However, after this past weekend, and at least for the time being, "Why We Fight" will be the documentary I say is my favorite. I first heard about the film when one of my friends who attends Westpoint told me that they had screened the movie for all the students there. He told me he loved it, but some of his comrads didn't, in fact some of them booed. Right then and there without even seeing the movie I knew I would like it. I enjoy films that polarize crowds. I knew those cadets weren't booing because of the film's production quality, but instead in reaction to the message it sent. And if this was the case, why would my conservative buddy say he loved this movie? A war documentary made in America at this time, it must be left leaning, right?
"Why We Fight" firstly and most importantly tackles the Military-Industrial Complex. Don't worry, this isn't a term Michael Moore came up with while interviewing some poor mother who just lost her son at war. And it isn't a disease diagnosed to our dearly dismissed W. It was a term coined by Dwight D. Eisenhower during his last speech to America as president. It was a warning.
The production of this movie utilizes all the documentary tricks. It very strongly uses the overlap of past war footage with a newer generation of Americans discussing their thoughts on the idea of war. It ties you up constantly with contradicting images of military and messages of passivism. One interview was masterfully edited throughout the film. Not only was it a story not often heard but it came from a man who the director obviously had respect for. It was a man who lost a son in the 9/11 aftermath, but guess what? He wasn't mad about the war. In fact he's mad at Bush for not finding the right evidence in the Middle East. The argument wasn't that the war isn't justified, it's a cry for help. This war could have been justified. The way the film mixes this with the unbelievable support and parades that soldiers had back in WWII era is quite unsettling.
Also, I want to examine why this movie could of polorized Westpoint students; a crowd of people that are more alike than most crowds watching a movie. Sometimes when you watch a documentary the film races off into a direction with only one direction. "Why We Fight" isn't cut like that. It's constantly covering it's tracks. The director purposefully showed clips of past and current soldiers bravely and violently defending a country. He gives the military a purpose. Then without blinking an eye the film reveals the politics and business of war. It reveals how this country manufactures war.
For me this didn't take away from what the soldiers did. It didn't cheapen their service. They didn't come off as pawns. Instead I realized there is another war to fight. The war against our beliefs being pushed upon us from past generations and the interests of world expansion. Then again, right as the film has you thinking this, it takes another side.
There might be no end to the cycle of war. It's inside of us and the only attempts to stop it might just result in a more vicious battle. Maybe that's why they booed. I know I'll never know. No answers found in this movie. Just more questions. I like that, because I never have the answer. To anything.