I watched this film online (on the excellent idfa “docs for sale”) today after it had been announced as one of the nominees for the Oscar award in the feature documentary category.
The film has this synopsis description on the Oscar site (link below): “One of the least-known components in the war on terror, the Joint Special Operations Command conducts its work in secret and seemingly without limitations. With no existing record of their actions or personnel, the JSOC carries out strikes against those deemed a threat to U.S. security while remaining entirely outside the scope of public knowledge.”
… which is actually not really how the film appears. Its is much more a film that has taken all its storytelling tools from fiction, a thriller, a detective story with journalist Jeremy Scahill in the leading role as himself, the reporter who with his notebook never gives up in his year-long search to reveal American war crimes in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia with some looking back at Iraq. He finds out the existence of the JSOC before it goes public, having success in finding and killing Osama bin Laden. It is a well-made film and no doubt that Scahill is a good journalist, but also a writing journalist, a man who works with words and has published praised books on his journeys into the secret world of the US fight against terrorism, a fight that with JSOC, as the film shows, has cost many lives of civilians. It is a formatted film with the journalist always at work, always on a case, seriously interviewing Afghans (the Gardez case where innocent, pregnant women were killed) and Yemenits about what really happened, when their dear ones were killed by the counterterrorist JSOC, accompanied by strong images of corpses, and clips from American television shows where his investigations were made into stupid entertainment. Scahill is serious but also a man, who constantly talks in first person (I decided to go but could not etc.) and only at the end when he meets the father of Anwar al-Awlaki, American citizen, who was killed because of his role in al-Qaeda, with the consequent killing of his 16 year old son, what did he do other than being the son of… you sense that the journalist – portrayed as a hero – has some feelings for what he is doing.
USA, 2012, 87 mins.