Ben Oliver

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Dirty Wars

If children are terrorists then we are all terrorists.
25 April 2014

Reporter Jeremy Scahill looks into shady American military operations abroad.

If you’ve listened to more than one news source in your life, it won’t have taken much for you to figure out that the US has been conducting (illegal?) drone strikes on countries they aren’t at war with, like Yemen. They are also not keen to disclose the purpose of said strikes unless it’s convenient to do so. If you aren’t aware of this or want to see it all laid out nicely, Dirty Wars is a must watch.

If all of the above sounds obvious, then it’s a ‘maybe watch’. As I said, it’s nice to see all the facts collected in one place but there’s little more than that.

What Scahill has done seems to be the result of a few Google searches and careful consideration of news articles. He travels in the documentary but it’s just to collect soundbites from people. Not to say that this is a waste of time, but the film sets a tone of danger that I found hard to believe was actually there.

The use of reconstructions is also liberal. We see Scahill poring over source material whilst his voiceover drones on. At one point he even goes to a shop and buys milk to describe how pedestrian life in the US is compared to a war zone. It’s all fluff. We see more shots of him thinking about stuff than we do actual stuff.

Someone also decided to apply an instragram filter over everything when perhaps it sould have been a way to distinguish what’s real footage and what’s been set up. It’s a style over substance problem and it distracts from the point the film is trying to make. I’m also a little uncomfortable about them adding such effects to important interviews. The filter is gloomy and washes the colour out of everything. You could probably apply it to an episode of Playdays and get the same feeling. Seeing a very young child talk about the death of her family is shocking enough, we don’t need to be prodded into feeling bad by some artsy editor.

This is definetely worth a watch, especially if like myself you’re sick and tired of having to read between the lines when you’re watching the news. I just wish it was more about the story and less about Scahill.