In case you didn’t know, War Machine is released on NETFLIX today (26 May 2017). Little White Lies interviewed David about his military satire and here’s an excerpt:
What moral questions did you face when you decided to make a satirical movie depicting war?
For a number of years I had been looking for a way to make a movie set in one of these theatres of war, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, and was having trouble finding one that I wanted to make. The stories that I was contemplating were so dark, they felt very unpalatable. When the production company brought this book to me, I suddenly saw a way in. The thing that struck me when reading it was the wild, absurd disconnect between the upper levels of command to the war on the ground. It was at that point that I started to see the film in terms of satire.
But I still wanted the movie to be about the horrors of war, so I started getting really excited about the idea of making a movie in which that absurdity and that horror existed together. I never really had any questions about my need to tread carefully in a moral sense as a filmmaker because America has a long and rich tradition of war satire. But that tradition has been asleep for quite a few years, and I’m not entirely sure why that is. I think it has something to do with America’s relationship with the wars it is fighting. The elephant in the room is that if you acknowledge openly that these wars are a folly, then it kind of makes the sacrifice of lives indefensible. And those two things are irreconcilable. It’s unsurprising therefore that as a way of assuaging its guilt, America treats its military with unquestioning reverence.
War Machine takes place during the Obama era, but obviously now the situation is different with Trump in charge. Do you think you would have made the film any differently now?
Not necessarily… I mean, I think one of the defining characteristics of Trump is that you don’t really know what he thinks, you know? He’s made intimations in the past that he has a more isolationist view of America, that he doesn’t want to have endless military engagements in different parts of the world if he doesn’t see it as being in America’s interest. But it’s just as likely that the opposite could prove to be true. It’s frighteningly conceivable that he will do something reckless and catastrophic… People have said to me that the movie is very timely, but it’s been timely for 16 years!
Do you think that people outside of politics, like journalists or filmmakers, have the power to change the world?
I don’t know if individuals do, but I would like to believe that the cumulative effect of keenly felt opinions expressed powerfully has some impact on the way the world turns. But who knows! If anything has changed since November 2016, it’s not so much to do with the way the military functions, but the way information is consumed. As much as I’d like to believe that we have a power as journalists, as filmmakers, as artists, to change the way people think, I think what’s happening now is that people have no idea how to think. If you’ve got a person constantly telling you that long-standing, robust institutions of the mainstream media are somehow all “fake”, eventually you just stop believing anything. Everything starts to seem fake. When your leaders lie to you all the time, it’s not necessarily that you start to believe their lies, it’s that you stop believing anything.
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