Monday, March 11, 2019

Our endless Afghanistan war seen from an odd perspective: Miles Lagoze's COMBAT OBSCURA

Well, times have certainly changed since those early days of our war in Afghanistan, when journalists were "embedded" with the military and did their "reporting" that way. Now, in the new documentary COMBAT OBSCURA, young Marine Corps enlistee Miles Lagoze (enlisting under the name of Jacob Miles Lagoze) served as his unit's official videographer, shooting and editing, according to the press materials for the film, "footage for the Corps’ recruiting purposes and historical initiatives." Upon discharge, Lagoze took the footage that he and his fellow-cameramen shot -- "We filmed what they wanted," he notes at the film's beginning, "and then we kept shooting" -- and assembled a documentary that the Marine Corps (or really any branch of our military) would not, I suspect, want the general public to view.

Perhaps, in order to keep his documentary as truthful and real as possible, Lagoze (shown at left), refuses to tell us anything about anything that is going on here. We simply see it as shot by the cameraperson and occasionally hear the marines involved talking amongst themselves (and once-in-awhile being themselves interviewed for the camera). This means that the viewer is simply tossed into the middle of things without often knowing what the hell those things are all about. Yes, this is confusing, but TrustMovies supposes that, if Lagoze had attempted to "explain " them, he could easily be accused of "slanting" that explanation one way or another. As it is, this is a very make-of-it-what-you-will kind of movie.

And while you may not quite know what to make a of a lot going on here, you probably will be able to figure out that you're seeing actual footage of everything from marines exercising together and getting high to shooting Afghans and exploding things ("Oh, god," we hear someone say, "that's the wrong building!").

We see one marine (below) interacting with a couple of kids whom he insists kept saying to him the word bomb (the interpreter says they're now asking him for a cigarette). Then there's some crappy behavior involving a pair of donkeys, a nasty bit of chicken killing, and finally, yes, planting evidence: a gun in the hand of a fellow recently shot to death (on the accompanying soundtrack: "Oh, man, we killed a shopkeeper!").

For anyone who was or is against our endless middle-eastern wars (hell, even the Russians only wasted a decade on their war in Afghanistan; we've been there going on 18 years now), Combat Obscura will seem like the most depressing yet in a long string of documentaries. For any folk still stupid enough to think we're over there for any reason other than making those who profit from our military-industrial complex even wealthier, I urge you to listen to the eulogy one marine gives for a certain Lance Corporal Watson -- "Almighty god, we stand before you..." blah, blah, blah -- which will simultaneously turn your stomach and blow your mind. To re-coin a phrase, this surely is an embarrassment of wretches.

This 70-minute movie -- which midway along cleverly features a bit of this footage, sanitizingly edited as shown on CNN -- climaxes with a rescue of the wounded, followed by one Marine singing a version of Jingle Bells that would not make Bing Crosby proud. Combat Obscura may be a very difficult thing to watch, but it strikes me as the kind of honest patriotic endeavor that we need a hell of a lot more of. My country, right or wrong? Certainly, but only if you add the rest of that quote: If right, to be kept right; if wrong, to be set right. Currently, the USA, in every way, is about as wrong as I've seen it in my lifetime.

From Oscilloscope Films, the documentary opens this Friday, March 15, in some eleven cities across the country. In Los Angeles, it will play the Laemmle Glendale, in New York City the Village East Cinema, and here in South Florida the Bill Cosford Cinema in Miami and the Lake Worth Playhouse in Lake Worth. Click here and then scroll down to see all currently scheduled cities and venues.

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