Pros: Important well balanced documentary
Cons: Slow start
Amir Bar Lev's Oscar nominated 2010 documentary The Tillman Story exposes the cover-up of the death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan in 2004. Tillman was one of the most famous Army Rangers in recent times. His choice to leave a multimillion dollar football contract and join the military because he believed it was the right thing to do. He did not do it to be a hero or call attention to himself-in fact he put on military forms that he did not want a military funeral or to be used to help recruit others in the event that he should die in service to his country. He did die in service to his country, but it was by friendly fire and the military manipulated his tragic death into a propaganda tool and tried to lie about what happened and when.
I'm going to point out something very disturbing to me. The documentary is rated R. Rated R because of language...the F word. Not PG-13 but R!!! Military officials can avoid answering questions in front of Congress and be seen live on all the networks and CNN and CSPAN by the entire world without any restrictions whatsoever, but Children under 16 cannot see The Tillman Story because it is rated R and people say the F word in it. What a country!!!
The documentary starts out with an image of Pat Tillman sitting somewhat patiently for a video shoot. If you know the story, you'll have to be patient as it is slowly told and we meet Tillman family members and see footage from the official memorial service which had a huge amount of pomp and circumstance-exactly what Pat Tillman did NOT want
We'll return several times to the memorial service throughout the film and each time it is from a darker point of view. When we first see footage from it doesn't have the meaning it will later have for us. Kudos to Bar Lev for going with this idea to tie the documentary together.
Pat Tillman was a risk-taking sports enthusiast. A passionate, physically fit, good looking young man who became a college football star and then was on his way to becoming a NFL star (Arizona Cardinal Safety). He had met and married the girl of his dreams and despite his love of the F word, was a very moral and balanced young man. He felt compelled after 9 11 2001 to join the military and do his part to serve. Tillman was very independent .
Bar Lev has an agenda, but he doesn't point his finger at the Bush Administration specifically, instead it's pointed at the Army, and the media who all like heroes and like to create heroes whether or not it is true.
What we know and Bar Lev details is how propaganda was created and then manipulated to try to cover-up that people were lying and trying to create propaganda about a tragedy. When War is tragic we still want it to be heroic and glorious, not pointless.
The fact that Pat Tillman was molded into a hero is obscene and Bar Lev helps us to understand why this is. It's okay that War is ugly and cruel, it's no okay when lies are manipulated and people's motivations are re-written and their wishes ignored so that they can be used for someone else's agenda.
Tillman's family wants the truth-not so they can blame someone for a mistake-but because they want to know the truth. They were never given the truth. Their son/brother gave his life because he believe it was important to serve his country and in return, his wishes were ignored and his survivors were lied to.
Most of you probably know this story without seeing this documentary, but there are details and there are moments that will surprise you, touch you, move you and it becomes important to see. We should all be demanding the truth from politicians, business, and military leaders. When we become easy to lie to, the people in power will lie to us. It's easier to make a hero of Pat Tillman then to tell the truth that he was accidentally killed in a tragic situation. We might remember we have the power to vote and to talk very loudly to lawmakers from the ballot box.
Moments before Pat Tillman was killed he said loudly... I'm Pat F'n Tillman. I can't write that her on Epinions and when they say that in the movie...it gives the move an R rating. The government and media can lie to us without a rating, but a documentary is rated R when it tells a true story truthfully and without the Fog of War or overly sanitized.
Bar Lev might go a little far when he shows the Jessica Lynch footage and uses the story of how the Lynch operation was ‘Faked' to create a hero out of Jessica when that was not the case, but he makes a good point. The Army will use the media and the media will allow themselves to be used to tell a completely phony story that feeds the right kind of propaganda. The Tillman story isn't in the same league as the Lynch story. The Army avoided telling the truth and then told a partial truth about Tillman without telling the whole truth. The army still tried to create scapegoats and blame people for things. They didn't sit down with the family and explain what they really knew about what happened. Some good innocent young soldiers were treated badly by the system and others who covered things up were not punished or recused for their behavior.
The Army when caught in their attempt to lie then tried to spin it as a mistake. It was a bungle and certainly not done on purpose, it just happened. Several people stumbled and did wrong things but not for bad reasons-they were all only trying to do the right thing. It is of course B. S.
Several people concocted an untrue story about what happened to Pat Tillman because making him into a hero would make the War effort more honorable and meaningful for a greater number of people. When the story started to unravel, a new story was planned and though it was only partially true, orders were given down the line to target some scapegoats and feed the media enough detail and spin to get the story run on all of the 24 hour news networks.
But the family wanted the truth and kept insisting on the truth. They got close to it, but never got the whole truth.
You'll be interested to know that both of Pat Tillman's brothers were not interested in being in the documentary. They cooperated with Bar Lev but are both private people who did not want to appear before camera (other than in archival footage). Kevin was not interviewed on camera and Richard was not going to be part of the movie until he saw the movie prior to its release. After he saw the movie he told Bar Lev he wished he had agreed to be interviewed for the movie. Bar Lev moved quickly and got Richard to sit down for an interview which wound up being inserted into the film at the last possible moment and that is why Richard is part of the movie.
How do I know this? I listened to the Bar Lev feature length DVD commentary which explained several interesting stories about the movie. I recommend you listen to it.
THE TILLMAN STORY has just been released on DVD (March 2011) and even if you think you know the story you don't know some of the details and you probably should know about the details.
The Tillman Story is an important documentary about how a tragic fratricide (friendly fire) incident is mercilessly spun by the Army and the media into propaganda. It's also the story of a family that didn't give up their desire to know the truth and who refused to be lied to. See it.