Why We Fight (2005)

(On DVD, August 2006) It occurred to me, watching this film, that the “documentary” label as attached to film may be about to need further definition. Much like libraries aren’t divided with multiple favours of fiction and one big “non-fiction” section, it may be time to make a few distinctions, perhaps starting with “opinions” and “facts”. No, I don’t believe any documentary can be completely objective, even if it’s only in what it chooses to show and what it doesn’t. But comparing a piece like Gunner Palace, which is almost all found footage with very little context, with Why We Fight, an avowed opinion piece with supporting footage, makes one wonder. Let it be said that Why We Fight somewhat accurately reflects my own views on the American industrial-military complex: That it has taken a life of its own and that the thousands of people working in that sector of industry all collectively pull American society in a direction that is radically at odds with the rest of the civilized world. But I couldn’t repress some annoyance at how Why We Fight sometimes anthropomorphized the phenomenon, giving the occasional impression that there was sort of a master plan at work in the development and usage of the military arsenal. (Although even I am not above some hasty generalization, as the above few lines demonstrate.) Still, Why We Fight is a much-needed exploration of how aggressive tendencies present in American society have been institutionalized, even glorified as all-American values. There’s tremendous depth to the argument and if Why We Fight often forgets to focus on its main argument, there are a lot of effective moments here and there, individual stories worth telling and contextualizing. The variety of interview subjects is impressive, including people that you may not expect in left-leaning documentaries. This opinion piece asks a lot of good questions and if the answers can be a bit weak at times, I prefer to see this film as a stepping stone or a subject of contemplation. While the musical montages can be unsubtle, the film covers a lot of ground and leaves viewers with plenty of material to digest. Fans of The Corporation will love it.

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