The War Tapes Deborah Scranton

"Every time you hear a boom, somebody is going to heaven.” So jokes an American soldier caught on camera by another soldier in The War Tapes. With the American public spoon-fed so-called reportage by Army authorised embedded journalists, The War Tapes comes as a refreshing and revealing glimpse of what’s really happening in Iraq. Though the film could dig deeper, it is an honest account told from the point of view of three soldiers from the New Hampshire Army National Guard serving a 16-month tour of duty. They capture some shocking images: charred Iraqis who were victims of suicide bombers; gunfire that shatters the night like fireworks; buildings instantly exploding. All the while, the soldiers speak over the footage in blasé tones ripe with gallows humour. Lebanese-born Zack Bazzi is the most thoughtful soldier/cameraman and because he speaks Arabic he strikes the closest connection to the Iraqi people. Bazzi is also the most critical of Bush, and we suspect he is torn being in Iraq. Michael Moriarty is more typical — a white-skinned patriot proud to serve in this desert war — but even he grows a little cynical as his tour progresses. Steve Pink is the most articulate, preferring to keep a detailed diary that captures dialogues, such soldiers debating whether the texture of a severed human limb resembles uncooked hamburger or not. The War Tapes has its moments of candidness and reflection but it doesn’t hit hard until the soldiers return home. Girlfriends and wives detect post-traumatic stress disorder, anger and an overall attitude from their men that threatens their relationships. Moriarty complains that his friends and families neither care about nor understand the horrors he saw. Meanwhile, Pink grows embittered, claiming that they’re fighting the war over money and oil not democracy. Bazzi comes home to his mother who begs him not to return. I suspect The War Tapes has made a bigger impact in the U.S., where the news has been sanitised. In Canada, where we’ve been exposed to more diverse and critical reporting, this film offers no great revelations. Still, that doesn’t diminish The War Tapes’ accomplishment of voicing the truth in a time of lies. (Mongrel Media)