Nate von Zumwalt, Editorial Manager
Richard Rowley’s Dirty Wars would be a fascinating work of fiction. Something like, “A cunning, well-intentioned protagonist lifts the curtain on a government’s unchecked and morally ambiguous behavior in the War on Terror.” Problem is, Dirty Wars is the reality, and one where whistleblower and journalist Jeremy Scahill exposes the covert operations of JSOC, an elite and secretive American fighting force that carries out global missions against “terror.” From Yemen to Afghanistan to Somalia, Scahill plays our dogged international guide as he ventures to the frontlines and investigates the American government’s mysterious involvement in these foreign lands.
It has become a banality, this labeling of documentaries as “urgent” or “necessary,” but Dirty Wars can’t escape that association. It is brazen in its pursuit of answers and unwilling to give the American government carte blanche when it comes to warfare, as its citizens so frighteningly often seem to do. It’s easy to be wary of a film that critiques without restraint—and for that the film has garnered its fair share of detractors—but Dirty Wars seeks to neither sabotage nor subvert. On that notion, Scahill spoke following the film’s premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
“If someone wants to say this film is anti-American, I question their patriotism. If we’re not willing to be self-critical, if we’re not willing to look at the extremes of what we’re doing and what they say about us as a society, that’s not a democratic process.”
Scahill, continued, “I love this country and I love the idea that we can change it. “If you stop believing that then you stop believing in a struggle for change. The moment you cede your conscience to a politician is the moment you’ve stopped fighting.”
- Dirty Wars is nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 86th Academy Awards.
- Winner of the “Excellence in Cinematography Award for Documentary” at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
- Based on the book Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, by Jeremy Scahill.
Dirty Wars is currently available for streaming on Netflix.