Day 29: Deborah Scranton’s War Tapes

In 2006 Deborah Scranton’s documentary, ‘The War Tapes’, was released, winning several accolades including ‘Best International Documentary’ at the Tribeca International film festival. This documentary was the first of its kind, giving actual soldiers serving in Iraq their own cameras to shoot footage over the course of a year.
Scranton begins her talk by describing the means in which she gained access to the soldiers. After receiving permission from the brave General Blair, she was tasked with visiting Fort Dix, where her main challenge was to get the soldiers to volunteer. The first question they asked? “What the fuck do you know about the National Guard?” She managed to get over twenty volunteers, including five soldiers who filmed continuously.
Scranton is an empathetic woman who obviously has a great relationship with her subjects. She shows intimate and powerful footage from the documentary; a group of soldiers rushing to the scene of a car bomb; an interview with a man describing the feeling of walking on skin on the ground; a wife who said her husband wasn’t the same man. There are individual stories too. A man named Paul Anthony, who only spoke about the war at TED because Scranton ‘had his back’, is in the audience. She tells the story of another returned Marine who approached her after a screening of the film in tears; a scene in which an Iraqi woman was run over by a Humvee reminded him of when he’d accidentally killed a child who stepped in front of his vehicle as his gunner was throwing out sweets.
Scranton found at every Q + A session that the people who stayed behind until last to ask questions were usually soldiers. Herein lies the power of film, a point made repeatedly on TED and otherwise; it get’s people to talk. Scranton challenges every individual who says, ‘I support the soldiers,’ to take action and do just that, whether through donating to a charity or reaching out to a Veteran neighbour. Operationalise those terms.


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