Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Valley of the Wolves

happy july4

calipendence has done a film review for you of "Valley of the Wolves" - here it is:

Pretty intense film. I guess I think back to the days when I was a kid in the 60's and 70's and we had a lot of WWII movies with a lot of "bad guy" Germans that just built up an image of them always being evil and wearing Nazi helmets with swastikas on them, even though much has changed today, and I actually have German ancestry. Now watching a film like this where we are *totally* the bad guys in it wearing "the bad guy helmets" that make us like-wise like inhuman automatons, it just struck me how we've viewed other cultures in the past unfairly as the "bad guys" all of the time in our movies and culture. Billy Zane was the ultimate evil guy, and I picture some of the neocons like Rumsfeld and Cheney like this guy.

Covers a little bit of everything, from the "bag incident", which probably affects Turkish viewers more than anyone else, the Abu Ghraib incidents were recreated to really follow the series of pictures of Lyndie England and Charles Graner had with Iraqi prisoners being piled up naked on each other, the slaughter of a lot of people at a wedding, etc. It also went through a suicide bomber's last moments, and what lead him to take this action, as well as a beheading incident with a twist, etc.

Gary Busey comes off as trying to care more about Iraqis than Zane does, but with his own twisted logic, is just as twisted and inhuman too. There were only a few Americans that tried to show some conscience, and there was a propensity for them to get shot at in so doing.

I guess many Americans would be angry at this film, but I'm mostly sad at how our image has gotten tainted. Though initially I thought this was going to be a broad and unfair indictment of all U.S. GI's over there, it seemed to point at this one "rogue unit" as being the bad guys, which might not be bad much beyond Zane's "mafiaoso" it depicted. The film I think subtly tries to poke more criticism at mercenaries, kind of making Zane's character more like a Haliburton honcho (and perhaps many who he leads being mercenaries instead of soldiers, though he leads soldiers too). He's criticized at one point for not being a soldier and notes that he "used to be" one.

Some have argued that this is a "revenge" picture for the Turks to make in response to the film "Midnight Express", which they felt made Turks look bad unfairly. I actually think that both films are pretty well done (Midnight Express was little more professionally made, though I'm guessing that it was made by Armenians might have something to do a bit with it's "slant"), and they both tried to show accurately a dark side of each of our countries' cultures. As I have noted here, when I was over in high school in Turkey not long before Hayes got in trouble there, we American kids were constantly reminded that getting caught by the Turkish authorities with drugs was NOT a thing to do, and many kids I knew suddenly were "gone" the next day in school when they had to be hustled home to the states overnight when they got caught doing drugs there to avoid doing prison time. Likewise, this film shows a lot of our dark sides as noted earlier as well with our soldiers in Iraq.

Both of those films equally "dwell" on the bad parts of the culture being portrayed (perhaps unfairly and less three dimensionally), but each film is focused on incidents where those bad elements are the folks that are directly dealing with the main characters. Billy Hayes dealing with prison guards, and the corrupt Turkish legal system throughout Midnight Express, and the Turkish characters constantly dealing with a rogue unit of Americans in a town in Iraq for this film.

There was also a "making of" documentary on the film (two versions, one was in Turkish and the other was subtitled where people weren't speaking in English). It looked like quite an international crew as well as a cast, and you could hear crew people speaking in English as well as in Turkish in the background.

Plus an added note is that it might be a "unique" way for some of us to "celebrate" (though that's probably not the respectful term to use) the fourth of July, since the initial incident in the film (the bags over head incident) took place exactly 3 years ago on July 4th, 2003 as well in northern Iraq

English trailer:

Turkish trailer (which includes more of the July 4th incident recounted from his brother before he commits suicide). Note the "4 Temmuz" at the beginning graphic. Later the narration says "Dort Temmuz" which is also citing "July 4th" in Turkish over the scene with the bags over their heads.

I tried finding at least the beginning of the film on a video clip someplace on the web, but haven't been able to do that. That would be a good one to point to if you could find it.

Nice pic on Huffington Post showing Bush in the "cross hairs" of the investigation now!

(apologies if the formatting is weird)


Miguel said...

Great review, thanks. Actually, this film was a topic of discussion at the American Turkish Council annual meeting, and there is a video clip of Marc Grossman lamenting the film and the effect it will have on U.S.-Turkish relations. You can find the video on the ATC website (it's actually a half hour discussion, with this film briefly discussed).

While I haven't seen the film, I think it is, in some ways, a natural reaction to America's role in the world as an "aspiring Rome". We've got our boot firmly planted on the rest of the world's neck, and now a large part of the world that used to see us as the 'good guys', relative to the Soviets at least, now sees America as an evil empire.

Mr. Grossman seems to think this film is the problem. I have another view entirely: the film is just a symptom of a much greater issue. The best way to insure future films like this do not become #1 hits is for the U.S. to stop invading countries and start acting like a good world citizen again.

The solution? Step 1- Impeach Bush/Cheney, IMHO.

calipendence said...

Thanks Miguel...

Another note on this film that I left out that deserves mentioning is that it does put forth a fictional Muslim leader in that area of Iraq that tries to show a "reasonable" side of Islam that is trying to counsel fellow Muslims not to go down the side of doing suicide bombings as working against the teachings of Islam, and also gets involved with the beheading incident in an interesting way too.

There are probably many other Muslim leaders that follow more what the Madrassas teach which undermine this, but at least this film gives voices to those Muslim leaders that do try to counter the Bin Ladens of the world that haven't been heard in our media. He reminded me a little of that Kurdish leader Saladin that was also a more three dimensional stoic character in Ridley Scott's epic "Kingdom of Heaven".

BTW, Luke, the image you posted I think is from your mail cache on google, not one the rest of us can see, since I'd cut and pasted the image, not the original image location in email I sent earlier. Here's the original image location in case you want to update the post.

rimone said...

great image of the preznit, Calipendence. i won't be seeing the film yet, although i did dig your review. hopefully in happier days, i shall--right now, i get too angry or worse yet, depressed.

lukery said...

thnx c/p