Dean R. P. Edwards
Volume 4, Issue 2, (Originally Published on Monday 5th August 2013)
Like any responsible, cash-strapped law student, I’ve been able to go out and see several movies at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF).
Here are reviews of a couple to note:
First up was American investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill’s latest documentary into the covert strikes conducted by US Joint Special Operations Command (known by its acronym, JSOC).
The film begins with a look into Scahill’s investigation into civilian deaths in war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, where scores of innocent lives have been subjected to unwarranted, often misguided, strikes – and usually with minimal or no media coverage.
What’s more, Scahill follows the elusive trail of JSOC strikes into countries with whom the United States is officially friendly.
In particular, Scahill visits Somalia and Yemen, where mercenary armies and cruise missile and drone strikes carry out JSOC’s continuing and clandestine mission to ‘neutralise’ terrorist threats to the United States and its allies.
The mission, however, is largely kept unaccountable, even from the US Congress that funds JSOC, though only a select few legislators know much about how JSOC operate.
In the meantime, President Obama’s administration has drastically expanded the JSOC operation and the kill lists continue to grow.
And all the while, the American people live in a democracy where voters have a diminishing voice on the most critical issues.
Of course, the movie could have mentioned that this is not a radical departure for the US Government, which has historically led or funded secretive military campaigns across the world.
However, the latest news about the Pine Gap base’s involvement in coordinating US drone strikes in South Asia is enough of a reminder that these ‘dirty wars’ demand scrutiny from not just Americans, but also from the country’s stalwart allies, such as Australia.
One hopes that Dirty Wars will make its way to a limited or general release (fingers crossed for Cinema Nova to take it up in the near future).
The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology
Next was a film featuring the international pop philosopher (at least among lefty circles) Slavoj Žižek.
Žižek’s works, in general, offer a critique of ideology – a concept that, in the right hands, can be explained thoughtfully and with insight into the inner workings of our society and psychology.
But in Žižek’s, where precision and pith don’t seem to be strengths, ideology becomes a labyrinth of impenetrable jargon – of exploring ‘the Real’ and other terms of Lacanian psychoanalysis that render the film’s critical perspective incomprehensible to the uninitiated. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in the scheme of things. But for this movie, it’s a handicap.
In the film, Žižek offers insight, sometimes interestingly, into our social fabric and concepts of reality, which he presents by critiquing films from Taxi Driver to The Sound of Music.
Don’t get me wrong: some of his ideas, and his often indulgent way of thinking, are entertaining, even illuminating.
However, those moments are brief, especially in this 134-minute film.
Still, the film could be worth seeing for those who haven’t had much exposure to Žižek and his schools of thought.
Dean R. P. Edwards