The War Tapes (2006, Deborah Scranton)

Harsh, harsh film. Three soldiers (Zack, Mike and Steve) get cameras to take on their tour in Iraq, filming daily activity and keeping sort of video journals. Meanwhile, camera crew in U.S. interviews their family, loved ones, and records their safe return home at the end. Tightly edited together to give an excellent, horrifying look at the war.

Cameras can be helmet-mounted or gun-mounted, giving a disturbingly video-game-like feel to the fighting (and there IS fighting). We see IEDs go off, civilians get hurt, US soldiers get hurt, dead rebels, grieving families. Brings home the reality of things I’d only vaguely read/heard about that are still going on (this was shot 2004). Very glad I watched, even if I felt terrible throughout.

Zach is from Lebanon, speaks Arabic, is one of the few US soldiers who can communicate with the locals, until he gets tired of having to repeat the company line to them. Mike is a pro-war go-get-em guy who signed up because of 9/11 and ended up disgusted by the experience, back at his difficult job at home. Steve is a lightweight joker reading The Nation, goes through a lot in Iraq, comes home probably with post-traumatic disorders, all a ball of bottled rage. These guys have gone to war and been messed up by it. They’re worse off, both countries are worse off. A real-life horror movie.

An IED going off:

Night-Vision Zack: