Two films with Vermont ties are among the targets of a new essay in the pretentiously hip biannual New York literary magazine n+1. The biting essay by A.S. Hamrah, "Jessica Biel's Hand," surveys "global-war-on-terror" movies released after 9/11, including Pearl Harbor (2001), United 93 (2006), In the Valley of Elah, The Ground Truth (2006), No End in Sight (2007), The War Tapes (2006) and Why We Fight (2005).
Seven Days wrote about The War Tapes — Jericho resident Chuck Lacy was its executive producer — in August 2006 and again in January 2007. After winning best documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival, the film made the short list for the Academy Awards.
Hamrah mostly liked that movie, which was culled from footage shot in Iraq by New Hampshire National Guardsman, but he suggests Lacy and director Deborah Scranton's finishing touches "abus[e] the pact they seem to have made with these soldiers."
Hamrah takes an even tougher line on Why We Fight, a documentary by Waitsfielder Eugene Jarecki about the military-industrial complex that won best documentary at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. After slamming Jarecki for using historical footage, Hamrah adds — cynically — that the film "invites us to contemplate its rightness even as it contemplates its rightness itself."
Hamrah's favorite war-on-terror flick? Full Battle Rattle, a 2008 documentary about an army training center in the Mojave Desert. Full Battle Rattle wasn't filmed in Iraq, and according to Hamrah, that might say something about our present Cinematic Moment. "Maybe in movies right now," he writes, "the war is best approached obliquely."