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The 9/11 Wars in Global Film

Using films about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as examples, BLOWBACK explores how movies shape our understanding of the wars that are fought in our name.

A printer-friendly version of this page 30 minutes
SDH Captioned>>

Directed by Terence McSweeney, George Lee
Produced by Terence McSweeney, George Lee
Writer: Terence McSweeney
Cinematographer: George Lee
Editor: George Lee
Animation: George Lee
Narrator: Terence McSweeney, George Lee

"Explains that war films do not simply tell stories about war, they are themselves weapons used to justify war." Pearl James, Co-Dir, International Film Studies, Univ of Kentucky
For a huge number of people around the globe the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have become "America's story". Films like the Academy Award-winning The Hurt Locker (2009) and the commercially successful and culturally impactful American Sniper (2014) have made a substantial impact on how these wars have been shaped in the global cultural imaginary.

But what of films about these modern wars made outside of the United States? What of those narratives told by the Iraqis and Afghans themselves? Or of French, Turkish, German, Chinese, or Danish film-makers? How might these films contribute to a greater understanding of how the conflicts came to be viewed and remembered by cultures outside of "our own"?

Adopting a richly textured and dynamic approach, BLOWBACK: The 9/11 Wars in Global Film is an entertaining, educational and informative documentary that seeks to illuminate the potentialities and limits of national cinemas in the global age.

Grade Level: 10 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2022     Copyright Date: 2019
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-78-X

"An essential, engaging, and concise exposé of how the filmmaking of war turns us all into embedded reporters, incapable of seeing beyond our frame of reference. An invaluable resource for anyone teaching propaganda, media studies, or journalistic bias."
Douglas Rushkoff, Professor of Media Studies, Queens College - CUNY, Author, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

"Blowback is a fine component to any course on war films. Well-selected film clips forcefully pose many key questions about authenticity, romanticism (war porn), propaganda, censorship, and more. The clips from other nations should help students see their own national outlook. And the Zero Dark Thirty clips and the interview with Kathryn Bigelow alone would make a great class meeting."
H. Bruce Franklin, Professor Emeritus of English, Rutgers University - Newark, Author, Crash Course: From the Good War to the Forever War

"Blowback explains that war films do not simply tell stories about war, they are themselves weapons used to justify war. This videographic essay exposes students to the complex issues surrounding the production and reception of war films. How do nation states influence the production of war films? How do war films reflect and inform wider public opinion about who is right and wrong on the global stage? What role do films play in public memory? The filmmakers do an admirable job of providing salient examples - A useful teaching tool."
Pearl James, Associate Professor of English, Co-director in International Film Studies, University of Kentucky, Author, The New Death: American Modernism and World War I

"Interrogating the cinematic production of the 'war on terror' as a uniquely American story, Blowback offers an inventory of Hollywood's most chauvinistic representations of post-9/11 militarism while also emphasizing the importance of alternative perspectives. Blowback tells key aspects of this global narrative through close attention to non-Western contexts of film production, distribution, and reception. It will be an especially welcome addition to courses on popular media and is a generally stimulating conversation starter."
Noah Tsika, Associate Professor of Media Studies, Queens College-CUNY, Author, Traumatic Imprints: Cinema, Military Psychiatry, and the Aftermath of War

"I found the film gripping. With a remarkable assemblage of clips from recent and classic war movies, Blowback shows how filmmakers across the world have used cinema to wage a war of ideas about terrorism and territorial aggression. This short film eloquently explores the power of movies to ask: Who are the sheep in global conflicts? Who are the wolves? Who are the sheepdogs that protect the sheep? Blowback offers a rich, provocative, and disturbing view of our collective experience of warfare in the early 21st century."
David M. Lubin, Professor of Art and Film Studies, Wake Forest University, Author, Grand Illusions: American Art and The First World War

"War films can be weapons in shaping public opinion. Blowback reveals the seductive allure and power of the war film genre and alerts audiences that the point of view is essential for the master narratives created by cinematic representations. Ultimately, war films are closely related to propaganda and help promote violent conflict, even if they claim to be about preserving freedom and democracy. This educational documentary does not shy away from asking tough questions and would be perfectly suited for classrooms from high school to college."
Karen A. Ritzenhoff, Professor of Communication, Central Connecticut State University, Co-editor, New Perspectives on the War Film

"The film discusses the use of war films as a modern replacement for monuments, a way to invoke historical reverence, and national exceptionalism...This length is appropriate for viewing during a class and would be most appropriate for upper-level high school, undergraduate and adult viewing."
Tashia Miller, Washtenaw Community College, Educational Media Reviews Online

"Blowback offers a succinct and insightful look into the dynamics of war cinema, especially in the post-9/11 period. The film contextualizes these films within a broader history of US and British colonial cinema, and then compares US war films with those by Iraqi, Turkish, and Chinese filmmakers in the same period. While short enough to use inside the classroom, Blowback is a film that offers a productive touchstone for further studies and discussion of this rich topic."
Kamran Rastegar, Professor of Comparative Literature, Director of the Arabic Program, Tufts University, Author, Surviving Images: Cinema, War, and Cultural Memory in the Middle East

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DVDs include public performance rights.

DVD Features
DVD includes English SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.

BLOWBACK reference guide

Awards and Festivals
Rollins Award, Best Documentary Film, Popular Culture Association
Best Documentary Short Film, Respect Human Rights Film Festival
Independent Political/Activism Short Film Festival
AHRC Research in Film Awards
Rassam International Short Film Festival
Unrestricted View Film Festival
Nepal Human Rights International Film Festival
Crystal Palace International Film Festival
First-Time Filmmaker Sessions, Lift-Off @ Pinewood Studios
Ambitus Film Festival
Middle East Studies Association Film Festival

Critical Thinking
Film Studies
Foreign Policy

Global Issues
International Studies
Mass Communications
Media Literacy
Middle Eastern Studies
Social Psychology
War and Peace

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