The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair

Co- Directed and Co-Produced by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein's ("Gunner Palace") THE PRISONER OR: HOW I PLANNED TO KILL TONY BLAIR opens in select theaters starting March 23 rd.

In an absurd comedy of errors, a freedom-loving Iraqi journalist is mistaken as Tony Blair's would-be assassin and sent to Abu Ghraib Prison where he discovers the true meaning of liberation.


Baghdad, September 2003: In a middle class house on a quiet street, a family is fast asleep. Without warning, the front door is crashed and American soldiers storm the house looking for weapons and bomb-making material. Cameraman Michael Tucker documents the event as the men in the house are cuffed and forced to kneel in the garden. A search of the house uncovers no incriminating evidence, however Yunis Khatayer Abbas and three of his brothers are taken and detained.

Bent on forcing Yunis to confess to crimes he did not commit, his captors press him with bizarre questions about music tastes, sexual preferences and Harrison Ford. His intelligence value exhausted, he is then transferred to Abu Ghraib Prison. The charge: Planning the Assassination of Tony Blair.

Among thousands suffering from food shortages, riots and insurgent attacks, Yunis endures by helping his fellow prisoners and keeping a secret diary. He also forges an unlikely friendship with one of his guards, who he calls "The Good Soldier".

Combining Tucker's embedded footage, Yunis' home movies, testimony from former guard Benjamin Thompson and original comic book art, Tucker and Epperlein trace the moving story of an ordinary man trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare.

Unique in its presentation and unlikely in its very existence, THE PRISONER OR: HOW I PLANNED TO KILL TONY BLAIR details an absurd comedy of errors where one freedom-loving Iraqi journalist learns the true meaning of liberation.

May 17, 2006 

Lazy Ramadi

I think the title says it all.

Baghdad ER, The War Tapes, Combat Diary

Rod Nordland at Newsweek has written an insightful piece about three new Iraq documentaries: Baghdad ER, The War Tapes and Combat Diary.

From Newsweek:

Everybody had a camera, and if they didn't have it, by the time you left they did," says Sgt. Steve Hicks in "Combat Diary: the Marines of Lima Company," the best in a newly crowded field of documentaries on Iraq. Lima Company's tour in Al Anbar province last year was notoriously bloody; the 184-man unit took 59 casualties, 23 of them fatal. Director Michael Epstein lets the soldiers speak for themselves, skillfully weaving their low-resolution digital-camera clips with after-action interviews. The soldiers' wisdom and honesty shine through. Lance Cpl. Travis Williams evokes the thrill of combat: "Before anyone got hurt it was almost exciting and fun, like a videogame." His buddy adds, "There's no drug in the world that can jack you up like that. In the beginning it's just awesome ... and then the bad stuff happens and you'll have some of the worst days of your life."

Lima Company's experience was exceptional; the New Hampshire National Guard's deployment probably comes closer to the norm. Director Deborah Scranton gave 10 of them video cameras and directed the filmmaking by IM during their yearlong deployment at Camp Anaconda, subject to review by the military's public-affairs office. What little actual warfare the soldier-cameramen in "The War Tapes" do see gets excised from their takes. Professionals are behind the cameras in HBO's forthcoming "Baghdad ER," and it shows. Emmy-winning filmmakers Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill spent two months at the 86th Combat Support Hospital, "the CASH," Baghdad's main field hospital in the Green Zone, bringing home the war's carnage. Asked what he hopes for on the Fourth of July, one doc replies, "To not have a dead soldier in my EMT today." Unsentimentalized, the Americans in these films will not always make viewers proud. In "The War Tapes," a sergeant says how pleased he was to see dogs eating insurgents' corpses. But no viewer will fail to be moved by the home video Cpl. Andre Williams ("Combat Diary") makes for his daughter's 6th birthday. "I'll be home real soon," he tells her. He never made it.

Having filmed the Air Force CASF at BIAP and medical evacuation to Landstuhl--the most emotionally intense thing I have ever witnessed--kudos to Jon Alpert for Baghdad ER, an important film that needs to be seen.

War at the Movies

I happened upon a Rush and Molloy piece today about the backlog of Hollywood feature film projects that deal with the war in Iraq. Most surprising was the revelation that Tom Cruise is slated to play LTC Nathan Sassaman in a feature adaption of NY Times Magazine story "The Fall of the Warrior King". He had better get some 4" lifts for his boots.

Reading that, it got me thinking about how Hollywood will represent this war and how war's been portrayed in the past.

Tim Page, the Vietnam combat photographer immortalized in Michael Herr’s Dispatches was once asked by a British publisher to do a book that would “finally take the glamour out of war”, to which he responded, “Take the glamour out of war? I mean, how the bloody hell can you do that?”

War, or at least the Hollywood version of it, has always been seductive to young men. When I went off to Army basic training at seventeen, we young recruits didn’t view Apocalypse Now as a cautionary tale about the “horror” of war, for us, it was just a coming attraction. So, arriving in Baghdad 20 years later--at the end of the beginning of this war--armed not with a rifle, but with a camera to film a documentary that would become Gunner Palace, I wasn’t surprised to find war imitating art.

Before finally settling on the soldiers of 2/3 Field Artillery as my subjects, I was warned by a public affairs officer about another unit I was considering filming, “You don’t want to make movie about those guys, they’ve watched Platoon too many times.” I didn’t have to ask to know what he meant. Those soldiers wanted to get some in this war, so I steered clear and made my way to 2/3 FA’s base at one of Uday Hussein’s minor pleasure palaces in Northwest Baghdad.

You couldn’t have built a better location on a studio backlot. The main building, a gaudy monstrosity with massive columns, was hit by a JDAM during the "shock and awe" bombing campaign, “We bombed it and now we party in it,” a soldier exclaimed. Out back, there was an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a stocked fishing pond and a newly laid putting green. The commander, a West Point graduate who came straight out of central casting--“the hard-charging colonel who loves his men”--lived in Uday Hussein’s old quarters, a pumpkin shaped building--complete with a circular bed worthy of Austin Powers--that he dubbed The Love Shack. It was Hollywood on the Tigris.

For the senior officers, M*A*S*H* was the model. Their wives sent them aloha shirts to wear at the monthly poolside barbecues, where they smoked Cohibas and knocked balls around on the putting green as gunships buzzed the river on cue. Their operations had code-names that read like they were pulled out of the script for Animal House or Old School: Hide the Salami, Rocket in My Pocket, Don’t Sheik it More than Twice--names that invariably brought laughter as radio operators read them over the net.

The older NCOs who had joined the Army in the shadow of Vietnam, borrowed a few pages from Apocalypse Now. Going on a raid, you could hear them humming Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries--a homage to Colonel Kilgore--as their Humvees rolled out the gate, one foot hanging out of the door, helicopters on wheels.

The young soldiers, raised on South Park, hip-hop and speed metal, made it up as they went along. Their movie could be called Jackass Goes to War-- rolling down down Route Irish on escort duty to the airport--and a sidetrip to Burger King--the PX boombox blasting The Black Label Society, Zakk Wylde screaming F*ck Iraq to passerby. In WW II, pilots painted Betty Grable on their planes, in this war, the soldiers fight with Sponge Bob by their side and Paris Hilton on their laptops. And you can’t have a war without a motto. Private Joker, the narrator of Full Metal Jacket, had “Born to Kill” scrawled on his helmet. In this war, the definitive Humvee bumpersticker reads: “Happiness is Iraq in my Rearview Mirror”.

The commander called the palace an “Adult Paradise”, but that was before his men started dying. Before Ben Colgan was killed behind the mosque. Before two Alpha Battery soldiers and an interpreter were killed on a routine patrol. Before the brigade’s Command Sergeant Major, who I had filmed at a pool party, was killed by an IED on Christmas Eve. Before a Bravo Battery soldier was killed during the uprising. Before Super Cop was gunned down in Adhamiya. Before mortars landed in the pool.

It wasn’t like it is in the movies. Any notion of Hollywood glamour was gone from their war, replaced by loss, the true face of war.

As I finished filming in Baghdad, Specialist Richmond Shaw, a young soldier wiser than his years, noted instructively, “For y’all this is just a show, but we live in this movie.”

I hope his words don't fall on deaf ears in Hollywood.

January 24, 2006 

This Film is Not Yet Rated

Kirby Dick's film about the MPAA rating system--which features some comment about our MPAA rating and appeal with CARA--is showing at Sundance this week. I'm curious if it will spark a serious debate about ratings system.

The Times of London had this to say:

Continue reading "This Film is Not Yet Rated"

November 17, 2005 

Wilf for President, 2008

If Christopher Walken can run for President, why not Wilf?

He has a GED.

He joined the Army at 17.

He liberated/invaded Iraq (take your pick) when he was 19.

He spent 420 days in Iraq, fighting from Baghdad to Najaf.

He likes to have a good time.

All that before he was old enough to drink (which didn't stop him).

Stu prepares for a mission in Baghdad with Sponge Bob by his side

Download H.264 High Res Video here.

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War Kids Relief

Jon Powers launched War Kids Relief this week, his program to assist Iraqi orphans and street kinds. NBC profiled him as a "Person Making a Difference".

Continue reading " War Kids Relief"

November 16, 2005 

Hollywood Goes to War

The New York Times Magazine provides a round-up of recent Iraq documentaries-- Control Room, Occupation Dreamland, Dream of Sparrows and Gunner Palace--in an article authored by Tom Bissell.


Life Imitates Art
Wilf doing his Jake Gyllenhaal impression.

Reading the piece, I took notice that Bissell tries to frame our films against the Vietnam Era "Hearts and Minds"--a film that was produced at the tail end of a conflict. He refers to our films as "journalism in a hurry", which I think is only half correct. I think the films are a response to television which simply isn't doing in-depth reports from Iraq. Given ten years to meditate on the war, I'm sure we'll see a "Hearts and Minds" emerge from this war.

Continue reading "Hollywood Goes to War"

September 08, 2005 

War Kids Relief


Jon Powers--a former CPT in 2/3 FA--who many of you met during advance screening of "Gunner Palace", has launched a program to aid street kids and orphans in Iraq with the support of the Vietnam Veterans Foundation of America.

Jon was back in Baghdad this summer for the first time after redeploying in July 2004. You can read his diary here.

August 17, 2005 

Television Goes to War

In May, we were invited by the Directors Guild of America to screen parts of "Gunner Palace" for a panel discussion called "Directors Under Fire". Also screened were clips from Iraq themed episodes of "JAG" and "ER" and the first episode of Steven Bochco's "Over There". The conversation was moderated by Richard Schickel from Time who has a lifelong interest in war reportage and war cinema.

At risk of sounding like a TV critic, I can say that it was odd sitting in an airconditioned theatre watching fictional representations of a subject that is so close to me--knowing that in two weeks I'd be back in Baghdad. At the same time, I realized that in this war, like in any other, fiction will play an important role is shaping perceptions of the conflict. Will we get it right? Only time will tell.

Today, The Hollywood Reporter is running a story about a WGA moderated event in LA entitled "Televison Goes to War" hosted by Michael Kinsley. Much like the DGA event, the discussion was centered on how to fictionally represent an event that is playing out in real-time.

Continue reading "Television Goes to War"

June 15, 2005 

Baghdad Now

Just came back from a long month in Baghdad. I'll write more later, but in brief, the trip was largely uneventful except for two sandstorms that kept me stuck at BIAP for nearly nine days.

I did manage to get out on the street with a CA team to take a look at orphanges that Jon Powers and his Iraqi Orphans and Street Kids Project wants to support. Here are a few shots.


Continue reading "Baghdad Now"

June 06, 2005 

Gunner Palace on DVD June 28th

Palm Pictures is releasing the Gunner Palace DVD on June 28, 2005. The disc can be pre-ordered on If you screened the film, you can post your reviews there.

As part of the DVD release, Palm Pictures will donate a portion of every DVD sale to Fisher House. On May 10th, Palm Pictures and GP Director Michael Tucker presented a check for $10,000 to Fisher House--the first installment of what we hope will be a significant contribution. Fisher House is a "home away from home" for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers. The families of many soldiers from 2/3 FA, the unit featured in GP, benefited from Fisher House. With the conflict continuing, more families are going to need help. To learn more go to:

June 03, 2005 

Mined Areas

The second day of filming mine survey teams near the Iranian border, we walked into a village where the elders insisted on taking us to mountain slope just outside the village. There, we found Val-69 mines that had tumbled down the ridge during the spring thaw. In this pic there are three. Within ten meters we found eight others.


May 30, 2005 

The Other Iraq

Arrive in Erbil and drove straight to Sulimaniya where the Land Mine Impact Survey is based. the first thing you notice about the North is that it is safe. The last time I traveled without body armor on in Iraq was September 2003. Here, it's another world. In fact, the Kurds will soon run ads on CNN advertising Kurdistan as "The Other Iraq".


Safe or not, my 6 man Peshmerga PSD is still heavily armed.

May 27, 2005 

Take the Rhino to the Steel Dragon

Just arrived back in Baghdad from Amman--a trip which should have taken about 90 minutes which evolved into a three day epic (including sand storms). I can't say that it feels good to be back.


I came from the airport to the IZ on the infamous Rhino bus, the safest way to get into town. Nearly every night the Army closes Route Irish I The airport road) and a couple of busses slowly ply the route supported by Apache gunships. It's safe, but you feel like a big brown RPG target. Apparently one was hit months back by a VBIED without incident, so it beats taking a taxi.

I'm off North in a day or two to Erbil to film Iraqi Landmine Action Survey along the Iranian border.

February 25, 2005 

Gunner Palace Wins Rating Board Appeal, MPAA Grants Pg-13 Rating

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 24 -- Palm Pictures today announced that the Motion Picture Association of America Rating Appeals Board today reversed an earlier decision and assigned a PG-13 rating to "Gunner Palace". The film, a documentary produced and directed by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein chronicles the day-to-day existence of members of the Army's 2/3 Field Artillery unit. The "Gunners" as they are called live in a bombed out palace formerly owned by Saddam Hussein's son Uday in Adhamiya, the most volatile section of Baghdad.

In making its decision the Appeals Board voted 9-3 to overturn the R rating. Board members commended Palm Pictures Head of Theatrical Marketing Andy Robbins and Director Michael Tucker for their compelling presentation and impassioned plea on behalf of the soldiers in the film.

Continue reading "Gunner Palace Wins Rating Board Appeal, MPAA Grants Pg-13 Rating"

February 13, 2005 


Jon and I went straight from Tampa to Columbus, GA. I hadn't been there since 1985 when I was in the Army Reserve training to be a weapons instructor. Much has changed. The biggest difference is that Ft. Benning has deployed troops--at the end of January, 4000 3 ID soldiers departed for Iraq. The night we were there, two were announced as KIA. In Columbus, there isn't a disconnect to the war. Everyone you meet knows somebody over there.

Columbus was surprising screening. Lots of soldiers and spouses showed up. The most memorable comment came from an 82 year old WW II combat vet who said that he related to the soldiers and that much hasn't changed in 60 years. He talked about his fear as a young man and the fear he saw in these soldiers. He also talked about laughter and friends who never came home. I am beginning to think that GP is a about soldiers and war; Iraq just happens to be the backdrop. Universally, the retrospective opinion from all soldiers, in all wars, is that it sucks.

The next day we went to Atlanta. We had no idea of what to expect--especially since it was below freezing with a wicked wind chill. To my surprise, we packed the theater. More later...

February 09, 2005 


We picked Tampa because of the proximity of CENTCOM--thousands of soldiers, airmen and their families live in the Tampa area and at Macdill AFB.
It was a great choice.

I don't know if it was the theater or chemistry of the crowd, but Tampa proved to be an insightful screening.

More, the audience, which was largely military, represented the military well: men, women, teenagers, senior officers and varied ethnic mix. All of them had one thing in common; they have been to Iraq. Adding to the mix, was a civilian audience that represented all sorts of opinions--I even spotted two women in their eighties in the audience.

When the screening was over--one which was peppered with laughter and tears, the Q&A opened a flood of emotions.

One soldier sitting in the front stood up to remind the audience, "While we are enjoying ourselves, a soldier, somewhere, is dying."

A man in the back wondered why we didn't see more blood in the film--more evidence of suffering. I explained to him the reality I filmed: a place where you are neck deep in violence, you hear blasts night and day; firefights, the pleas of a squad under attack on the radio, but you are often not there. The film captures what I experienced, and only what I experienced while on routine patrols and raids. In the time when we were producing the film, 8 people connected to 2/3 FA were killed. Enough violence to last a lifetime.

Interestingly, the soldiers often answered audience questions for us. At one point, a general officer spun a around so shocked by a question that I thought he was going to leap to his feet. He didn't, but many did.

What you feel in these screening is a disconnect between an experience and what people think that experience is. The positive outcome is people connect to the soldiers and the Iraqis they are humanized.

February 07, 2005 


Gunner Palace is in the Miami Film Festival, so we dropped in for the weekend. Ironically, our first screening was up against the Super Bowl. Jon was down the street watching the game during the screening--with half of Miami.

Miami was a great crowd. It was a very urban crowd and they responded well to the film. The greatest thing I heard all night is that there is an underground mix tape of the freestyles in the film floating around in New York Clubs--which actually brought a couple to the screening.

Great discussion after the film and I sensed that while the film won't change any minds, it tends to open minds up. People are talking together and that is positive.

February 05, 2005 



We drove to Killeen, Texas last night with no idea of what to expect. We have a series of sneak previews scheduled near posts--Benning and Bragg are next--but we can't hand out tickets on base without DOD approval, so we never know how many soldiers and family members we'll be able to get to these screenings.

Well, a hell of crowd showed up plus three camera crews from local stations. We had the VFW from Waco, whose leader said that he loved the realistic language in the film but thought (in a very Texan drawl) that we "Must of cleaned it up a bit".

That made me laugh.

A few 2/3 soldiers were there and their thumbs-up made my day.

The Moore family, whose son Stuart was killed in December 2003, also came all the way from Livingston, Texas to the show. Having them there meant alot. Jon Powers, who was a CPT in 2/3, is back on the road with me sharing his impressions with the media. Stuart was one of his soldiers, so it was very emotional for all of them to meet.

The screenings, as always, are very positive. All sorts of folks are talking after screenings and I'm learning much about America. We just did three cities in four days and I've come to see that Americans want to know more about this war and what soldiers are experiencing--no matter what they think of the war.

February 02, 2005 


Had a great turn-out Chicago. SPC Tom Susdorf, on leave from Germany, turned up with his family and a number of "Palace" soldiers and family were in the audience.

I had invited blogger Blackfive--as I have many bloggers--to a screening and he not only showed up, but he stayed to have a drink with us. Bloggers, both in uniform and out, have provided a valuable source of counter-media during this war, so I was pleased to meet him and hear his feedback. Here is what Blackfive had to say:

"For y'all this is just a show, but we live in this movie." - Soldier in Gunner Palace

I was invited to attend the Chicago premiere of Gunner Palace. Gunner Palace will be released on March 4th, with a wider distribution by mid March. The Director, Michael Tucker, and I have been emailing back and forth for awhile now. I've discussed the movie and posted some of the videos that he's taken over the last year, too.

Getting ready to go to the theater, my wife asked me what I thought the movie would be like. I had an idea from the trailers, videos, web diary and the email conversations with Michael Tucker.

"Not anti-war or pro-war. It'll show that war is beautiful and that war really, really @#$%ing sucks."

I was right. And I loved every single minute of the movie.

Gunner Palace is told from the perspective of the troops (2/3 Field Artillery) about what they think about Iraq, politics, and the Army. It shows an immensely complicated and extremely dangerous situation being handled (well) by simple Soldiers just trying to do the job given to them. Throughout the movie, I was on the edge of my seat or laughing at the antics of Wilf or admiring the courage of the soldiers and their interpreters.

After the premiere, Michael Tucker and one of the soldiers from Gunner Palace, Captain John Powers, held a Question & Answer session. There were a lot less political questions than I would have expected from a Chicago audience. There were a few of the Soldiers from the movie at the premiere and they were all treated with respect (and many thanked them for their service).

I was able to spend some time (and have a few drinks) with Michael Tucker after the premiere (at Duffy's on Diversey). We discussed the movie but also talked about the military and Iraq. We talked about war and it's effects on Soldiers - we talked a lot about decompressing after coming home. And we covered many things that I can't discuss. You'll just have to see the movie.

And lastly, we discovered that we both love Sarah's blog, Trying to Grok.

If you're looking for an open, honest and hugely un-biased look at what has been happening in Iraq and what our Soldiers think about it, Gunner Palace won't disappoint you. It will be well worth your time to see the movie.

I hope as this tour goes on we'll get more bloggers to screenings. If you blog, drop us a note and we'll get you a ticket.

February 01, 2005 

Colorado Springs


Arrived in a very snowy Colorado Springs over the weekend for another screening. This is Stuart Wilf's hometown and the home of Ft Carson, so it provided a great place for a sneak preview.

Just got back from the screening. It started with an advertisement for the Marines which received a few ironic grumbles from the Carson soldiers in the audience.

Wilf was a hometown hero for the night. There's a reference to a local I-25 construction project which brought hoots of approval from the audience. If he ever wants to run for president, he can start here.

The funniest thing was meeting all his local friends. Most of them seemed a little taken aback by his experience in Iraq. He went to his high school the next day and received surprising thanks from his principal who saw him on the cover of the Colorado Springs paper.

Long live Wilf.

January 31, 2005 

San Francisco

Had a lively screening in SF on Thursday Night. Lots of soldiers, family members and vets showed up. posted the following comments about the screening.

I went to the Gunner Palace screening in San Francisco on Thursday night along with a buddy who commanded a Blackhawk company in Mosul. Thanks to the SF traffic and weather, we got there about ten minutes into the movie. It didn't matter.

If you're an OIF vet...SEE THIS FILM.

If you're family of a soldier...SEE THIS FILM.

If you've never had any contact with the military...SEE THIS FILM.

If you're for or against the war, red state or blue state, long-haired hippie or backwoods redneck...SEE THIS FILM.

This is a truly amazing piece of work. The filmmaker (Michael Tucker) went to Baghdad on his own hook and found a unit (2/3 FA) to follow around. No embeds, no DoD handlers, no PAO supervision...he just showed up and started living with these guys. He ended up staying for 2 months.

There are literally no holds barred in this film. Tucker went on every mission, and in many shots you can see him right behind the breach teams as they raid suspected insurgent hideouts. You see the good and the bad; the unabashed patriot who stands behind the mission full bore, and the burned out privates who despise the Iraqis they see as ready to stab them in the back. You see the freestyle rappers putting their experiences to music and the skinny kid who teaches himself to play the National Anthem on electric guitar while waiting to go on guard shift. You see Iraqis working with the Gunners to find and capture insurgents and the little kids who throw stones at the HMMWVs as they drive by.

There's no politics, no uplifting message, no Pentagon propaganda (except for the AFRTS excerpts that clash jarringly with the reality presented)and no Hollywood ending. Just 400 soldiers trying to get the job done as best they can.

The film will continue in previews for the next month before it opens to paying audiences. Here's a schedule. Go see it, and stick around to talk with the filmmaker. It will be the best two hours you spend this year. Then tell somebody else, and send them to the website.

By: Fury

January 27, 2005 


Just arrived in SF after a week in Seattle where we had two very different, but equally great screenings.

The first screening was in Lacey near Ft. Lewis, home of the Stryker Brigade. Lots of people on post expressed interest in seeing "Gunner Palace", so we decided to do both a downtown Seattle screening and a Lacey screening.

As usual, the conversation afterwards was lively, especially given the cross-section of political opinion and experience apparent. We had Styker soldiers and families, college professors, Vietnam Vets and the extended family of LT. Ben Colgan--the first 2/3 soldier to die in Iraq.

I want to thank everyone, especially Ben's cousins for coming out. It meant a lot to me to have you there.

During the Q&A, a Stryker soldier pointed out, "Every soldier in this room has lost someone that they love." When he said that, all I saw was a sea of heads nodding in agreement.

The next night, we screened at the Seattle Art Museum in downtown Seattle. Warren, the host was great--and I think he framed the film well. Ben Colgan's family attended along with a number of local OIF Vets. Of note, David Tucker (no relation) attended--he was a Psyops officer in Baghdad for a year and is now producing a play about his experiences. If you can see it, check it out.

Overall, it was a diverse audience and the Q&A was great. People really want to know what soldiers are experiencing. With the elections coming and the war very much in the headlines, I feel that audiences are trying to make sense of Iraq and they gained much by talking to soldiers.

January 13, 2005 

Rate this R for Reality

I didn't think I'd be posting here until we begin sneak previews in Seattle on the 24th, but here I am. To prepare for our nation-wide theatrical release, we submitted the film to the MPAA for rating. The rating came back last week as a "hard" "R" for language. We've decided to appeal based on the simple concept of context.

I had hoped that the MPAA would be able to make a distinction between reality and fiction, more, I thought that an association tasked with reflecting the opinion of American parents, would be able to see that the majority of Americans support the individual soldier in Iraq and know that soldiers are living in, and responding to, a very violent reality.

Is there profanity in the film? Yes. Is it worse than anything on the latest RIAA rated CD or what is heard in the hallways of American high schools? No. The soldiers in the film are simply reacting to the violence and intensity they live in. Writing about the American soldier, Oliver North said that after a few months in combat they can, "take profanity to the level of a new art form."

According to the MPAA guidelines more than two uses of a "F" word is an automatic "R" rating. Profanity, like it or not, is the language of combat. General Norman Schwarzkopf is quoted as saying, "War is a profanity because, let's face it, you've got two opposing sides trying to settle their differences by killing as many of each other as they can."

I think the MPAA is out of touch with America.

When I went to Baghdad to make this film, all the soldiers asked is that I "tell it like is"--the good and the bad. That's what I did and I think that their voices need to be heard without undue restriction.

As a soldier says in the film, "No need to like this, but please respect it. This is life"

Jack Valenti, the former head of the MPAA and WWII vet, recently wrote an op-ed for Variety entitled "Moral values in times of war." Mr. Valenti makes an excellent argument for context, which I quote below.

Continue reading "Rate this R for Reality"