THE TILLMAN STORY (Amir Bar-Lev, 2010)

The Tillman Story, which won the documentary prize of the San Francisco critics, is another sharp, powerful work by U.S. documentarian Amir Bar-Lev. While it refers specifically to official lies regarding the death of a soldier, a high-profile celebrity, in Afghanistan, and the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld Administration’s and the U.S. military’s subsequent exploitation of his memory to recruit for their Iraq War, Bar-Lev aims more widely at the nature of corrupt power, deceit, self-deceit. “[My film is] about the lies we tell ourselves to make war palatable,” Bar-Lev has stated. “And it’s from the Greek times—heroes, hero-worship, valorizing war and telling lies about it.”
     Patrick Daniel Tillman Jr. was a college and, later, professional football player who, affected by the attacks of 9/11, rejected a lucrative contract in favor of enlisting with his brother Kevin in the U.S. Army. His death two years later by “friendly fire,” at age 27, was initially reported to have been by the Taliban, and he was nonsensically accorded a Silver Star for combat bravery as part of a cover-up. This also involved destroying his personal diary, which presumably gave voice to Tillman’s disillusionment over U.S. incursions in Afghanistan and especially Iraq, where he had also been deployed, so that his memory could be used for the purpose of military recruitment to help sustain Bush’s wars. Tillman’s divorced parents each began an officially stonewalled probe of the truth of their son’s death and the other lies that were being attached to Pat and his memory. The film contains interviews of each parent and of Pat’s comrades-in-arms and others. Pat’s mother, “Dannie,” concludes: “It’s not about our family. Our family will never be satisfied. We’ll never have Pat back. . . . This is about what they did to a nation.”
     One riveting film.

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