|Jeremy Scahill in Yemen|
Courtesy of Sundance Selects
2013, 82 minutes
Review by Joshua Handler
Dirty Wars is a horrifying and bleak documentary by Rick Rowley and follows investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill as he uncovers some of the dirtier aspects of the United States’ War on Terror, particularly their night raids.
Scahill has covered the War on Terror from its early days up to the present. Going into territory deemed incredibly unsafe by the United States Army and controlled by the Taliban at night, Scahill meets a family, and upon talking to them and doing some research uncovers a special branch of the military called JSOC that reports directly to the White House. It turns out that this group performs night raids, killing innocent people in the process including part of the family Scahill talked to. All of the raids are covered up.
The film is an exposé on the dark side of the War on Terror that we never see. America has an image as a country of morals, promoting liberty and justice. The America shown in Dirty Wars doesn’t quite live up to that image. It is shown as one in which American oppresses the poor and innocent in other countries. By sending JSOC into the remote areas of Afghanistan and other countries where we aren’t even fighting, America causes countless innocent lives to be lost and causes people to live in constant fear.
One aspect of Dirty Wars that makes it stand out among the dozens of other recent documentaries is that it’s incredibly well-researched with rock-solid evidence to back up its points. The film has a massive bias in that it is against the War on Terror, but when you’re watching a movie called Dirty Wars, what do you seriously expect?
As well-researched and consistently compelling as Dirty Wars is, I couldn’t help but want the filmmakers to go more in-depth on each issue discussed or have an entire movie dedicated to exploring the night raids. I am certainly happy that many subjects are covered, as they are all interesting and ask provocative questions, but I wish that the film had slowed a little and gone more in depth than it already did.
Finally, Rick Rowley’s cinematography (he won the Cinematography Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival) is unique. Most documentaries aren’t particularly well-shot, but this film uses fluorescent colors to give the movie a grungy, dreamlike feel, which makes the movie visually compelling.
Overall, Dirty Wars is a really good, eye-opening glimpse behind the curtain that the government puts up to hide the less savory aspects of their war. Scahill is an excellent documentary subject and his work, along with co-writer David Rikers and director Rick Rowley, comes together to create a satisfying documentary that will surely stir up its fair share of conversation.