04 February 2010

The Red Bull Film Festival: Coming Attractions

A couple of weeks ago, I tongue-in-cheekily proposed a "Red Bull Film Festival," a series of movies through which Regular Joes might be educated while being entertained. The subjects, themes, and messages? The history, people, culture, and/or geography of Afghanistan and its neighbors. Not everybody reads books and magazines, I reason, and there's got to be some different ways to engage soldiers in conversations about the issues and situations they may face downrange. Movies seem like a good bet.

I'd soon grown frustrated, however, that movies explicitly about Afghanistan seemed few and far between. (Hollywood is only now getting around to getting Iraq right--Oscar-nomination kudos to The Hurt Locker, by the way--so maybe we can hope for more cameras focused on Afghanistan.)

As I've said before, however: God works in strange and mysterious ways. Sometimes, he works through my car radio. Other times, he works through my Facebook account.

In the first case, I was gingerly speeding along my new 45-minutes-of-wintery-county-road commute, when a National Public Radio story used a classic Jack Nicholson movie to help describe the challenges of governmental corruption and resource management in Afghanistan.

Here's an excerpt for context, but the line I'm particularly in love with is: "Kandahar is Chinatown":
In one case, the provincial council seized land in Kandahar belonging to the Afghan defense ministry; it was developed into a gated residential community.

In another case, the provincial council took over water rights on land in Kandahar from a local tribe.

"This matters because this is the desert," says Greentree. "Water is the most valuable resource after land. Kandahar is Chinatown," he says.

In that Jack Nicholson movie, set in 1930s Los Angeles, powerful figures try to secure water rights on land outside the city. That is akin to what's happening now in Kandahar, says Greentree.

"A political mafia gets control of the water resource and knows where it's going to distribute so they buy up and acquire all the land around it and then become fabulously wealthy and powerful as a result. ... That's the underlying story," he says.
Benjamin Tupper, author of the soon-to-be-republished "Greetings from Afghanistan: Send More Ammo" (Sherpa's review here), was the first to call my attention to "Restrepo," a documentary recently well-received at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. (It one the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary.) A shout out also to Facebook friend Jo L. for calling fire-for-effect on the recommendation. I'll keep y'all posted if/as the movie gets distribution.

My ever-growing Task Force Facebook also potentially hooked me up with Scott Kesterson, part of the freelance photojournalist/videographer/mil-blogger team that made a documentary called "At War." I'm hoping to score a copy that I can screen for 3,499 of my closest friends in uniform.

In the further spirit of "Coming Attractions," here are some the titles I plan to review here at Red Bull Rising, with an eye toward creating a non-traditional training opportunity for our Red Bull troops during these pre-deployment months. I'm seriously calling it "The Red Bull Film Festival," and think that I might be able to book that big stadium-seating interactive classroom they have at one of our armories. I might even have to sell popcorn and T-shirts ... Gotta make this Army gig pay off, you know?
Is this a good time to tell you that, in addition to fixing radios, one of Sherpa's previous mil-jobs was to run a U.S. Army movie theater in the middle of a foreign desert? It was a like a drive-through, but with more camels ... That, however, is another story.

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