| by Tench Phillips, Naro Cinema
Reprinted from Veer Magazine, Sept. 2015
In the anticipation leading up to the release this fall of Michael Moore’s first new film in six years, Where To Invade Next?, the Naro brings a series of new documentaries that explore the consequences of recent U.S. foreign policy decisions around the world. For the past 50 years neoconservative policy has dominated Congress and the administrations of both political parties. The warmongers also inhabit the halls of the State Dept and of course The Pentagon. Theirs is a belief in American empire and an endorsement of military violence at the expense of detente and economic aid. It has worked splendidly well for the benefit of big defense contractors and for Wall Street. But not so well for the countries being invaded – their economies, their infrastructures, and their people suffer greatly.
Civilians can make up to 90% of the total number of casualties of the wars waged today. And the countries being invaded may continue to suffer long after the Americans leave. The internal ethnic wars instigated by Western countries in the Middle East and in numerous African countries can rage on for years. And these wars often cause internal and trans-border migrations by desperate people seeking asylum. In the case of the Iraqi invasion, over 4 million people were initially displaced and the numbers are greater now. Some of these so-called migrants – the label that the mainstream media use as a euphemism for the refugees that they really are – are now washing up on the shores of Europe. Many are crossing borders by hiding in the backs of trucks. They’re coming from poor, violent countries and are seeking refuge in Europe and the U.S.
The proto-fascist movements within right-wing parties throughout Europe and the U.S. have exploited people’s innate fear and ignorance for their own political gain. Rather than offer equitable solutions for a sustainable world, many candidates choose instead to scapegoat immigrants and poor minorities as a campaign strategy. Nothing new, it’s been done for decades. But the adverse effect upon people’s attitudes is more powerful than ever due to the complicity of mainstream media in the shaping of the political debate.
Since the year of my birth in 1950, the U.S. has invaded, bombed, or attempted to overthrow more than twenty countries including Libya (2011), Iraq (2003-present), Afghanistan (2001-present), Haiti (1994), Kuwait (1991), Panama (1989), Grenada (1983), Dominican Republic (1965), Cuba (1961), and Vietnam (1961-1973). And that’s not counting all the covert CIA operations that have destabilized democratically elected governments in Chile, Guatemala, Honduras, and Venezuela to name just a few. Nor does it include the covert funding of antidemocratic regimes and dictatorships in Iran, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. In fact the ongoing Saudi invasion of Yemen is a proxy war being funded and armed by U.S. mega-sales to the Saudis. Not to mention the resulting humanitarian crisis in Yemen that has been created with U.S. backing.
The unspoken mission of the U.S. corporate-military state is to dominate and control the world’s resources for the benefit of American multi-nationals. President Obama’s high-tech drone strikes have opened up new territories within countries that we’re not even at war with as in Pakistan. Of course this can all get very complicated if China or Russia are also in the same region with conflicting interests. A recent example is the U.S.-backed coup in the Ukraine that resulted in the Russian invasion of Crimea and a proxy civil war that has devastated parts of eastern Ukraine.
There is a direct connection between U.S. foreign policy and the economic and racial injustice found here in our own urban ghettos. The trillions of dollars spent on national defense, homeland security, and the ongoing drug war has stolen from our citizens the benefit of social programs, health care, quality education, and stable employment. When the biggest job programs in the country turns out to be military induction as well as prison incarceration, then it becomes painfully obvious that our socioeconomic model is unsustainable.
The ongoing Wednesday night ‘New Non-Fiction Film’ series will include several films that reveal the true cost of our country’s overseas adventures. The acclaimed new film The Look of Silence investigates Indonesia, a country shaped over the years by the genocide perpetrated on its people during the 1960s by the military dictatorship with U.S. backing. We Come As Friends is filmed in war-torn Sudan where multinationals are maneuvering for ownership of natural resources. The forces of neocolonialism by both the U.S. and China are carving Africa’s largest country into two. Burden of Peace exposes the legacy of the U.S.-backed Guatemalan military dictatorship and its massive genocide of indigenous Mayan peoples. As one of the only countries to have ever indicted and convicted its own political leaders, there is much to learn in this up-to-date film about a powerful social justice movement. The ultimate message of these films are full of hope and enlightenment.
I want to believe that if Americans really understood the true legacy of our country’s complicity in these atrocities that they would call for an end to our continued military adventures. These upcoming films shine a ray of truth on the dark underside of an America that too often glorifies military conquest and sanitizes the suffering of millions.
Upcoming Film Events at Naro Cinema
BEST OF ENEMIES In the summer of 1968, television news changed forever. Dead last in the ratings, ABC hired two towering public intellectuals to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions. William F. Buckley Jr. was a leading light of the new conservative movement. A liberal Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, Gore Vidal was a leftist novelist and polemicist. Live and unscripted, they kept viewers riveted. Showing Wed, Sept 16.
Kahil Gibran’s THE PROPHET written by celebrated Lebanese-American author Kahlil Gibran, is among the most popular volumes of poetry ever written, selling over 100 million copies in forty languages since its publication in 1923. This animated feature was produced by Salma Hayek and directed by Roger Allers (The Lion King). Opening Friday, Sept 18.
REMBRANDT: From The National Gallery London and Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam For many art lovers, Rembrandt is the greatest artist that ever lived. This recent landmark exhibition focuses on the masterworks he painted in his final years. The filmmakers gained unlimited access to these two world renowned institutions, the film uses interviews with curators and leading art historians, this new film seeks to explore the truth about the man behind the legend. Showing Tuesday, Sept 22 in ‘Exhibition On Screen’ series with Chrysler Museum.
THE REFLEKTOR TAPES: ARCADE FIRE One of the most popular bands of the last decade, Arcade Fire’s last album Reflektor climbed to the top of the charts internationally. This film documents the band’s creative journey as they lay foundations for the album in Jamaica, record in a studio in Montreal, and play an impromptu gig at a Haitian hotel on the first night of Carnival, before bringing their breath-taking live show to packed arenas in Los Angeles and London. Showing Wed, Sept 23.
PAWN SACRIFICE In 1972, Bobby Fischer faced the Soviet Union in the greatest chess match ever played. On the board he fought the Cold War. In his mind he fought his own madness. In a gripping true story set during the height of the Cold War, American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) finds himself caught between two superpowers when he challenges the Soviet Empire. Directed by Edward Zwick (Glory, Blood Diamond), Pawn Sacrifice chronicles Fischer's terrifying struggles with genius and madness, and the rise and fall of a kid from Brooklyn who captured the imagination of the world. Also starring Liev Schreiber and Peter Sarsgaard. Opening Friday, Sept 25.
PLANT PURE NATION This new film from the makers of the game-changing phenomenon, Forks Over Knives, tells the story of three committed people on a quest to spread the message of one of the most important health breakthroughs of our time. When nutritional scientist and author T. Colin Campbell inspires a Kentucky politician to propose a pilot program documenting the health benefits of a plant-based diet, they inadvertently set in motion a series of events that expose powerful industry forces opposed to the program. Dr. Campbell’s oldest son Nelson decides to try his own grassroots approach in his hometown of Mebane, North Carolina. Showing Wed, Sept 30.
MEET THE PATELS This romantic-comedy documentary directed by first-generation Indian-American siblings Geeta and Ravi Patel. Ravi is soon-to-be-thirty and in search of love after a difficult breakup. The journey takes him all the way to India, where nonstop pressure from his parents and traditional family gradually influence him into the awkward and hopeful prospect of a semi-arranged marriage. Date to be announced.
THE LOOK OF SILENCE This is filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer's powerful companion piece to the Oscar-nominated The Act of Killing, a film that featured the perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian genocide (a military regime backed by the U.S.). When the film was shown a few years ago thought the country, a family of survivors discovered how their son was murdered, as well as the identities of the killers. The youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, confronts the men who killed his brother and, while testing their eyesight, asks them to confess and accept responsibility for their actions. Werner Herzog and Errol Morris are the film’s Executive Producers. Showing Wed, Oct 7.
THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION In order to be able to understand the incendiary racial landscape of contemporary America, the history of the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party must be rediscovered. The resurgent demands by “Black Lives Matter” for justice and racial equality were birthed in the 1960s by a cast of larger-than-life personalities including: Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge, Kathleen Cleaver, and Fred Hampton. Showing Wed, Oct 14.
WE COME AS FRIENDS At the moment when the Sudan, the continent’s biggest country, is being divided into two nations, an old pathology has re-emerged of western colonialism, the clash of empires, and new episodes of bloody (and holy) wars over land and resources. Showing Wed, Oct 21.
BURDEN OF PEACE Claudia Paz y Paz is the first woman to lead the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Guatemala. A country that has systematically massacred nearly 200,000 Mayan Indians with the direct backing of the United States. Her office has recently indicted the country’s President. Showing Wed, Oct 28.