Friday, April 24, 2009

Screening of "At War"

At War

This evening, I attended the screening of "At War", a documentary on the war in Afghanistan. It is the best documentary I have seen on any of the current Areas of Operations (AOs) in the war on terror.

Check out the trailers here:

The official movie site is

The film maker, Scott Kesterson, was not a professional film maker/photographer, but a 40-year old construction company business owner with a passion for photography. He was a fan of documentary film maker David Leeson's online photography group and pestered him with questions about becoming a photo journalist. Leeson took Kesterson under his wing and mentored him for a year before Kesterson set out on a one year embed in Afghanistan.

The difference with this documentary is that it does not have any narrative. It is well edited raw footage. By well edited, I mean it flowed well. The footage wasn't edited to fit a particular message - - other than this is how it is.

The screening this evening was at the 4th Annual Milblog conference. Kesterson and his mentor/producer, Leeson want to use "new media" to promote this film that was shot in 2006. Troy Steward, author of the milblog Bouhammer, who sponsored tonight's screening said that the goal is to get enough people talking about the film over the internet that a buzz will be created and will entice a theater chain to pick-up the film or to get a television deal. Currently, several army commands have had the film shown to their units as training prior to deployments to Afghanistan. I personally think this would be a cool special programming thing at the museum (even though this is all Army - - no Marines).

As a civilian, this documentary brought me closer to the fight than anything I have ever seen before. You got to see the chaos of battle, the tenderness of treating injured and sick Afghans, the frustration of training Afghan military, the sadness of losing a soldier (as seen from the American, Canadian and Afghan military point-of-views). In one segment, Kesterson is filming two American military advisors (a captain and a sgt) to an Afghan military post nicknamed "The Alamo". The surrounding hillsides are controlled by the Taliban. At one point, the post had been hit every night, stronger attacks than the night before and their ammunition was bottom of the barrel. Kesterson and the two American military advisers actually filmed good-bye messages to their families because they were so certain they would be making their last stand that night.

Strong film. Strong perspective of what it must be like to be boots on the ground. I give it a strong, two thumbs up recommendation.

It runs about 2 hours, a little long. It is also not the most kid friendly regarding language, but hey, I'd expect a lot of people, including myself to be using the F word a lot while being shot at. The times that death is shown, it is done tastefully. While there are many fighting scenes, I didn't have to make any escapes which would surprise the folks who know how jumpy I am. So, violence wise, R rated movies are way more violent, if you can believe that.

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