SWP Week 4 – Pro-War Film Disguised as Transgressive Art

The panel was called Identity, Transgressions and Meta-Structures in Prose and Image ?. The first to speak was Abigail Child who introduced two short films. The first she described as actual footage of a US military stealth bomber. She said it was transgressive because it showed murders.

I was very disturbed by her introduction to the first film. Tears started to form in my eyes. I wanted to cry. War is terrible. It is so sad and frustrating and terrible.

But the film clip she showed was disturbing in other ways. It was a short film by Dominic Angerame called Anaconda Target. The online site describes it as:

a documentation tape of aerial bombings by the American military in Afghanistan, depicts the devastating effect of smart bombs. Not often featured in media reports, the soldiers’ voices form the soundtrack that accompanies these chilling images. The document has been appropriated by filmmaker Dominic Angerame as a critique of his government’s military aggression. ? – Susan Oxtoby

And says it rents for $50.

What disturbed me about the film was that it was obviously (at least to me) pro-US and pro-war propaganda. There was nothing in the film that contradicted anything the US government claims is happening in Iraq or Afghanistan. And even more insidiously, the soundtrack of soldier voices provided a narrative framework that justified the military action.

During the Q&A I went to the mic and made this comment:

The Anaconda Target clip is not transgressive, but is the opposite.

The film uses a motif common in the world’s myths and folktales: everything but one, anywhere but there. Myths and stories from various cultures typically involve the transgression of one law, such as eating the apple in the Garden of Eden or opening Pandora’s box or the instruction not to build a fire from an African creation myth. There are many, many examples.

In this film the one law is do not attack the mosque. This instruction is repeated over and over. For the first few minutes of the film all the speakers are focused on locating the mosque so that it will not be attacked.

The one law is never transgressed in the film. In fact, we see one of the victims on the ground make it to sanctuary by making it to the mosque. The film very clearly establishes limits for the US military involvement and then shows the US military acting within those limits.

Instead of being transgressive or even anti-war, Anaconda Target is pro-war, pro-US propaganda. I am suspicious of how this clip made it from the military into public hands. I would not be surprised to find out it was purposefully released to the news media.

Abigail Child responded by saying she is against murder and the film shows murder. Therefore, it is transgressive because it shows something she doesn’t agree with.

That sounded like a non-answer, but since I hadn’t actually posed my comments as a question I tried again. I asked, But how is this film not military training? ?

She said, Oh I don’t think the military uses this film for training. Maybe they keep it to study how effective their tactics are. It reminds me of the Nazi’s who wanted to document everything. ?

Later in the afternoon, I was pleased when many other people thanked me for asking the question and said they had similar concerns.

When I happened to be in line at the bookstore right behind Abigail Child, she turned to me and said, Are you the one who wasn’t terrified by the film? ?

I replied, No, I was terrified. I just don’t think it was transgressive. It was propaganda. ?

But she was already ignoring me and talking to someone else.

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