2014, Movies

War of Lies (2014, Mathias Bittner)

Let’s get this out of the way: This is a student film. The director freely admitted last night that he made this as his graduation “project” for film school.  When he said that before the movie, my expectations lowered considerably. I am always wary of first time directors.
And there are definitely signs that this is a first feature: too much use of the static between TV clips, which is such a cliche; awkward pacing; unnecessary scenes; etc.
But…and it’s a big ‘but’: This is one compelling film. Here we have an interview with one of the couple major sources for the US’s bogus intelligence for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. This is the guy who claimed that there were mobile chemical weapons factories. This interview is about why he said what he said and how he feels about it now. The film is just the interview, plus Bittner’s attempts at dramatizing Aljanabi’s state of mind – I worried those attempts would be awkward but, for the most part, they work really well as a means of placing the viewer inside his mental state (provided, of course, Aljanabi is telling the truth, and we have no reason to believe he is). I don’t think I have ever seen a film like this – one subject telling his side of a story with the film set out to show how he felt. It’s like one of those TV shows about near-death experiences but with only one interviewee, no narrators, and it’s way, way better.
Regardless of whether or not Aljanabi is telling the truth, the film is a damning indictment of both the German Federal Intelligence Service and the CIA, and anyone else who believed this nonsense (MI6 for example). It’s a perfect example of how human beings hear what they want to hear. At this point hundreds of thousands (I recently heard “one million or more”) people died in part because the Federal Intelligence Service decided Aljanabi was credible. If that doesn’t make you angry, nothing will.
An absolute must see despite the odd technical issue.

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