We’ve all noticed that coverage of the war in Iraq has dropped off over the last year or so. Ever since it became an incontrovertible truth that the Bush Surge worked, The New York Times and MSNBC seem to have decided that there wasn’t much worth covering anymore. Clearly, editors sitting in glass towers in New York City believe that “stories” like Korans being flushed down a toilet sell far more magazines than non-fiction accounts of hope and change in Iraq stemming from the hard work of our armed forces. Now that things are going better in Iraq and controversies are more difficult to create, it doesn’t merit the “coverage” it once did.
This phenomenon, while unfortunate, is not the most egregious failure of the mainstream media in covering the war in Iraq. Focused as they were for the last five years on finding (or inventing from whole cloth) reasons to blast President Bush for anything that happened in Iraq, the reporters tasked with covering the conflict missed some of the most incredible acts of courage and sacrifice that have ever been performed. Four soldiers, sailors, and marines have posthumously been awarded the Medal of Honor for acts of courage performed in Iraq, but few of us could name one of them.
Sadly, the trend in Hollywood has mirrored the mainstream media. In a sad contrast to the epic films from fifty years ago showing the heroic GI vanquishing the evil Nazi, those in control of Hollywood today seem to revel when Americans face setbacks and dismiss any sign of progress. Major studio film projects have been almost uniformly shrill in their anti-war message, reflecting the usual Hollywood liberal fallacy that their views are representative of what the rest of the country believes.
The failure of such thinly-veiled polemics like Lions for Lambs and Rendition belies the fact that, while Hollywood liberals are convinced that they speak for the rest of us, most Americans cannot stomach their brand of defeatism. While I never expected either of those films to succeed, it wasn’t until I made a trip out to Los Angeles early last year that I realized what needed to be done and what we, as conservative filmmakers, could do.
Last spring, I was in Los Angeles where I had the privilege of seeing a trailer for a documentary entitled Brothers At War. Brothers At War was written and directed by Jake Rademacher, a filmmaker who followed two of his brothers as they deployed to Iraq. He embedded with four different combat units to give the audience a perspective on the war that doesn’t come through in the mainstream media. Subsequently, Brothers At War would win the Best Documentary award at the 2008 GI Film Festival.
After screening the Brothers At War trailer, I was struck with the idea that I needed to make a war film. It occurred to me that for all the ink that has been spilled about the causes and conduct of the war in Iraq, up until that point there had not been a documentary film that really captured the essence of what it is like to be a combat soldier in Iraq. A film had not yet been made to show something that your average Hollywood liberal doesn’t understand: while there is plenty of disagreement over the war itself, it is close to impossible to find an American citizen who is not proud of the men and women in the military and their service to this country.
I realized that there were thousands of stories of honor, sacrifice, and courage from the war in Iraq that were just waiting to be captured on film for the country to see. Clearly, Hollywood wasn’t leaping at the opportunity and so it fell to us, we few conservative filmmakers, to seek out these soldiers to make sure that their sacrifices are remembered.
Almost exactly one year after I first saw that trailer for Brothers At War last spring, I am proud to say that Citizens United Productions’ latest documentary, Perfect Valor, will make its world debut at the 2009 GI Film Festival. Perfect Valor tells the stories of soldiers and marines who fought in the 2004 battle for the city of Fallujah. This is not a pro-war or anti-war film. Instead, it is our attempt to honor the men and women who serve though giving audiences a small glimpse of what it was like to fight house to house and street to street in the most dangerous city in the world.
Narrated by actor, radio host and former Senator Fred Thompson, Perfect Valor introduces the audience to a Navy Cross recipient recognized for extraordinary gallantry under fire during the assault on Fallujah. A true American hero still haunted by his experience in Iraq. We listen to the family of a fallen Marine as they tell the story of their sacrifice. We hear the harrowing tale of a battalion surgeon who risked his own life to move an aid station forward, into the middle of the fight – a decision that saved thirty lives.
Hearing first-hand accounts of these incredible acts from the people who were there in Fallujah is an intense experience, and it is all too easy to forget that each of their comrades has a similar story to tell. While I’m not holding my breath for all of Hollywood to come around and realize that there is more of an audience for films that rightly glorify the sacrifices and heroism of American troops rather than harshly political tantrums by left-wing actors and directors, we do have some hope. HBO’s recent original production, Taking Chance, is one of those stories and by no coincidence was HBO’s best rated original production in five years.
I encourage conservatives to take a moment to visit the GI Film Festival and look at the amazing work being done by filmmakers around the country to capture the incredible stories that the men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have to tell. The mainstream media and Hollywood have abdicated their responsibility to tell these stories, so it is put to us as patriotic Americans to seek them out. There is no better place than the GI Film Festival, where Perfect Valor will be just one of hundreds of films that deserve to be seen. The men and women featured in these works have fought and died for our sake. Now it is our duty to remember their sacrifice.