Monday, September 11, 2006

American docudramas

To someone raised on actual documentaries which have at least an attempt to be factually and historically accurate, the practice of American docudramas messing with reality is rather disturbing. It isn't the way they change the facts for dramatic purposes; that, at least, is understandable. No, it is the incessant right-wing, ra-ra-Ameri-ka politicisation of the docudrama that catches in my throat.

Take, for example, the recent movie "United 93", about the passengers of the airplane who took on the September 11 hijackers, crashing the plane and killing all on board, but (presumably) preventing a major disaster. As Mercury Rising points out:

The movie "United 93" shows how American heroes take on the hijackers -- but only after a German passenger has tried to persuade them not to. The movie is described as "meticulously researched" and "fact-based", but there is not any indication that Christian Adams, deputy directory of the German Wine Institute and a Fulbright Alumnus, acted in the cowardly appeasing way he is portrayed in the movie.

And then there is Disney's The Path to 9/11, which tries to put the blame for the terrorist attack on former US President Bill Clinton -- or at least equal blame with President Bush. Washington Post media critic Tom Shales has this to say:

The impression given is that Clinton was spending time on his sex life while terrorists were gaining ground and planning a nightmare.

It would have made as much sense, and perhaps more, to cut instead to stock footage of a smirking Kenneth Starr, the reckless Republican prosecutor largely responsible for distracting not just the president but the entire nation with the scandal.

(From Mercury Rising.)

Reasonable conservative Jon Swift does a better job than I could at explaining why it should be conservatives, not progressives or liberals, who get upset at the Disney docudrama about Sept 11:

While I appreciate that the miniseries reportedly puts most of the blame for 9/11 where it belongs--on Monica Lewinsky--I am bothered by reports that it also criticizes President Bush.

[...] It seems to me that President Clinton is more accountable for not getting Bin Laden after two years especially since we reportedly had him surrounded in Afghanistan and let him slip away (though perhaps not exactly the way it's depicted in the film). How hard could it have been to find a 6-foot-4 terrorist after two years?

[...] I was very chagrined to discover that not only had some events been invented, some important events had been left out of the film entirely. Apparently the director didn't bother filming the scene where President Bush learns of the attacks while reading My Pet Goat to schoolchildren. How could they leave out one of the Bush's greatest moments as President, the seven minutes when he sat there motionless and plotted out his entire strategy for the War on Terror in his head? Perhaps it wouldn't have been very dramatic to film the President just sitting there for seven minutes but the filmmakers could have telescoped time a bit, as they claim to do in other scenes, and showed him sitting there for, say, four minutes. And I have not heard any mention of a scene showing Saddam Hussein planning the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Leaving out an important scene like that seems to me to be a big dramatic oversight, basically confusing the viewer by making the invasion of Iraq appear to be completely pointless.

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