Rope of Silicon‘s Bill Cody has ripped into Restrepo co-director Sebastian Junger by (a) noting the film’s non-political, no-bigger-picture viewpoint, which bothered me greatly in my own review, (b) noting that Junger has recently advocated a pro-war position on TV talk shows (stay the course, send in more troops), and (c) wonders if the lefties who’ve praised this film really understand what it (and Junger) are saying?
“Did Sebastian Junger sucker Sundance into supporting an Afghanistan War with no end in sight?,” the article begins.
“Junger lucked into a perfect storm when Restrepo, his feature documentary about a fire base in Afghanistan opened the same week General Stanley McChrystal was forced out as the Commander of US troops in that country
“Junger was already slated to appear on many TV and radio shows promoting the critically acclaimed Sundance Jury Prize Winner, but when Afghanistan became the biggest news story of the week Junger was added to several guest lists including a well-publicized panel on NBC’s Meet The Press. On each of these shows Junger was asked his opinion of the ongoing war and each time he argued for more time and more troops. In other words, more war.
“As I watched Junger on these shows I wondered aloud if this is what the programmers at Sundance had in mind when they promoted Junger’s film earlier this year and heaped awards and praise on it.
“They made no bones about pushing their anti-Iraq agenda in 2006 and 2007. The Festival handed out awards to Iraq In Fragments and No End In Sight while Geoffrey Gilmore gave interviews about the ability of documentaries to change the world. Sundance also helped produce and fund Iraq In Fragments and made no bones about the festival’s take on the Iraq War. They were against it.
“Now they’ve supported a director who is very pro-war, albeit not the Iraq War. Perhaps they didn’t understand what Junger and co-director Tim Hetherington were trying to say with this film? Or did the charming Junger and his modern-day Hemmingway shtick just take them in?
“Junger is a star,” Cody reminds. “The kind of star voted Sexiest Author by People magazine in 1997. The kind of star that Sundancers eat up. A Vanity Fair-contributing, hipster bar-owning, best selling author kind of star. And the movie isn’t supposed to raise questions about the war. It’s supposed to get you to support the troops. To get the country to pony up more men and more treasure in the future.
Cody, who has a military history, says he personally “wouldn’t give a platform to someone like Junger who obviously has an agenda. He did reporting from Afghanistan in the ’90s and doesn’t want the Taliban to come back. I’m not sure he told Sundance that when he pitched his movie to the powers that be at the festival. But I do know that’s what he’s telling Charlie Rose now.
“So I ask, is Sundance in favor of this war? Or did they just fall for Junger’s handsome face?”
My only issue with Cody’s piece is his assumption that the people running the Sundance Film Festival actually “take” political stands, or that they present a unified political front on this or that issue. They’re a leftie organization, of course, and most lefties are appalled at the waste and the sense of floundering that the Afghanistan War represents. But I’m sure they’d say that if they found a first-rate conservative-minded documentary, they wouldn’t hesitate to program it — as they didn’t hesitate to program Restrepo.
I’m just glad that someone else is saying “consider the pro-war current” in this film. I was feeling kind of alone there for a while.