Friday, January 13, 2012

War Porn

I've already addressed the dreary slog of Angelina Jolie's Bosnian War movie from the artistic standpoint; now that I've had a chance to observe the promotional efforts and official commentary, I'd like to address its political implications.

The film opens in Mordor-on-the-Potomac this weekend, and Jolie, Pitt and their brood were in town promoting it. Jolie even paid an emotional visit to the Holocaust Museum, and its Bosnia exhibit.

Critics mostly agree that the movie is a stinker. The fact that it's being shown in only a small number of art-house theaters suggests the producers are aware of this too. As Peter Brock (author of the outstanding "Media Cleansing") noted in his write-up, propaganda movies about the Balkans have never done well at the box office.

Then again, moneymaking never figured highly in Empire's motivations to intervene in the Balkans. Whether the goal was sticking it to the Russians, keeping Europeans in their place, enjoying the worshipful groveling of eager regional clients, seeking to impress jihadists worldwide - or any combination thereof - the Empire's white-knighting project in the Balkans has been about power.

Commercial films seek to make a profit. Art films want at least to break even while telling a story. Propaganda films aim to preach; for them, breaking even or profiting at the box office is useful, but not necessary. Jolie's film, a textbook example of "chetnixploitation", is intended to reinforce the official narrative by demonizing the designated villain. So, Serbs bad, Muslims (Croats, Albanians, etc.) good, and the Empire is the shining savior from aggression, rape and genocide. And if not, it should be - so says the Power Doctrine.

The title of the film was outright stolen from photographer Ron Haviv, a major source for Balkans imagery favoring the mainstream narrative. And Jolie herself has been a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (since 2007), a body behind much of Empire foreign policy.

Lo and behold, all the elements come together in a review in The Atlantic: Jolie "gets the war right", there is mention of the CFR and Power's work, all the memes and motifs are reinforced - and then Jolie is mildly criticized for being less than subtle (!) about hammering them home. Because the Empire is all about subtlety, after all...

To the Imperial establishment Jolie represents, it doesn't really matter that the film stinks. The story is hackneyed. Though the actors do their best (I've seen them in other productions), their lines are just terrible. Even the imagery itself is derivative, trying hard to present the Bosnian War as a re-run of the Holocaust - as seen in movies.

Why now, though? Could it be that, faced with a bleak economy at home and the inglorious end of two foreign wars, the Empire needs to trumpet a "success" to its populace (and oh so coincidentally, one that the Clintons can claim credit for)? Thing is, the Bosnian War ended 16 years ago. Few Americans cared about it at the time, and fewer still care about it now. Worse yet, Empire's white-knighting experiment turned out to be a complete and utter failure. The "rescued damsels" did not respond with gushing gratitude - quite the contrary. So all Jolie's film actually manages to do is underscore the Empire's pathetic disconnect from reality.

As for the whole knights-in-shining-armor rescuing-the-world myth, authentic war footage just exploded that. Professionally produced war porn, just like the actual kind, just cannot compete with amateurs anymore.

18 comments:

1389 said...

William Dorich: Review of In the Land of Blood and Honey, a movie by Angelina Jolie

Peter Brock: Angelina Jolie's 'Blood and Honey' directorial debut a 'flop'

Meezer said...

If I were to do a movie about the Wars of Yugoslav Succession I would have a much better script. It would clear show a truly multi-ethnic coalition fighting an evil fascist regime bent on ethnic cleansing & murder.

One of the main characters would be a Bosnian Muslim, Fikret Abdic, leader of the "AP ZAPADNA BOSNA"

One of the scenes in the movie would be from June 10, 1994 in Velika Kladusa. It would show murders, rapes, terror, etc., committed by the attackers. And who were these attackers committing all these atrocities?????

Gray Falcon said...

@ 1389: I've linked to both of those articles, in this text and the prior one. I appreciate you hosting both.

@ Meezer: the tragedy of Fikret Abdic and his people is yet another one of those forgotten aspects of the Bosnian War. Since it doesn't fit the narrative, the mainstream media have decided it doesn't exist. Yet it is very relevant in so many ways...

Suvorov said...

Speaking of Chetnixploitation, isn't it ironic that Antiwar Radio just interviewed our good old friend Roy Gutman?

bloggosapiens said...

There are some other, very intressting, aspects of this particular piece of Hollywood propaganda.

My English is not enough good to translate and explain massages in an very significant article written by the well-known Bosnian Muslim publicist Fatmir Alispahic.

http://www.bosnjaci.net/prilog.php?pid=16934

The end of the article "Marketing tragedije" ("To advertise a tragedy") ilustrates the relationship that many Bosnian Muslims have to truth seeking:

"Jer, bez historije ne postojimo. A historija je samo tekst. …Tekst koji se proizvodi kao i svaki proizvod."

or (my approximative translation):

"Because, without history we does not exist. And history is just a text. A text that is produced as any other product."

Not less intressting is this part of the above mentioned article:

"Holokaust kao turistička atrakcija


Na Zapadu se već godinama pokušava uspostaviti naučna alternativa proizvodu o jevrejskom stradalništvu u Drugom svjetskom ratu. Ipak, do nas ne dolazi ništa od ovih istraživanja. Razumljivo, jer politička moć koju drže Jevreji ne dopušta brkanje “istine” o holokaustu. Naučnici koji su pokušali zvaničnoj verziji suprostaviti činjenice, brutalno su proganjani. Dr. Robert Faurison je jedva preživio batine koje je dobio od neke jevrejske bande. Ernes Zundel je napisao knjigu u kojoj je razobličio montirane sudske procese protiv nacista, a zauzvrat mu je spaljena kuća u Torontu. Izgorjela je i jedna knjižara koja je prodavala ovakve knjige. Mnogi autori su pretučeni, hapšeni, a nekima je oduzeto i kanadsko državljanstvo. Ove maglovite informacije nam tek ukazuju da ne znamo dovoljno o pokušajima nekih zapadnih autora da ospore “istinu” o holokaustu."

Please translate if you agree that this is interessting.

And read the article. There things that explaines the Bosnian Muslim involvement in madame Jolies movie.

Gray Falcon said...

@ bloggosapiens :
To say he's a "well-known publicist" is being too polite to Alispahic. Interesting quotes, though.

Suvorov... I had to check, but you're right (as usual). Major gaffe, IMHO.

Suvorov said...

The good news is that he has not received a single positive comment, which means that the Antiwar audience is by now well-trained in identifying an interventionist. Perhaps it makes sense to invite people like that just to see whether the listeners are awake. All right, I admit I couldn't get past the point in the interview when Gutman protested against Horton saying "Constantinople" instead of "Istanbul". Since I have not heard the rest, I don't know if he did the same in case Scott Horton inadvertently said "Kosovo" instead of "Kosova".
Perhaps you could suggest that they invite John F. Burns of NYT to serve as the next litmus test for the audience.

Witch-king of Angmar said...

"Commercial films seek to make a profit. Art films want at least to break even while telling a story. Propaganda films aim to preach; for them, breaking even or profiting at the box office is useful, but not necessary."

I could not disagree more! The very purpose of propaganda is to reach the masses. If a propaganda film doesn't score at the box office it's an abject failure, plain and simple.

Gray Falcon said...

Yes and no. Consider that the masses in the U.S. don't particularly care, one way or another. Can't even find Bosnia on the map.

The film is made for the coastal liberal audience, the we-must-do-something types inclined to read Power's book - i.e. for the virtual universe the Imperialists live in. As such, it doesn't have to do well at the box office; the worse it does, the better an argument can be made that the hoi polloi simply need more brainwashing.

While I would normally be inclined to agree with you, I think in this instance they may not be aiming for the masses at all.

Witch-king of Angmar said...

"The film is made for the coastal liberal audience, the we-must-do-something types inclined to read Power's book - i.e. for the virtual universe the Imperialists live in. the worse it does, the better an argument can be made that the hoi polloi simply need more brainwashing."

Maybe, but what is the point of that? I mean, this is classic, proverbial "preaching to the choir". These people need no reminder of their ideology and even if they do an incendiary article or two by the hack on duty at the time would suffice. And if the oi polloi need more brainwashing, this actually proves my point of box-office success (at the very least) being a must.

Gray Falcon said...

The choir enjoys being preached to. They need to reinforce their conviction that their virtual world is real. Repetition being the mother of learning and all that.

I haven't the slightest doubt that Jolie wanted her film would be a massive box-office success, simply as a validation of her (alleged, assumed) directorial skills. But the release strategy suggests she went after awards and "elite" recognition first, mass appeal (if any) afterwards.

I agree with you that truly effective propaganda is always packaged in mass appeal (remember the Serbophobic imagery gratuitously inserted into Cage/Connery vehicle "The Rock"?). I am, however, arguing here that the promotional strategy for the film suggests an attempt to justify the lack of mass appeal and rationalize the box office failure, while reinforcing the propaganda message.

Either way, the movie is a stinker, as is the "history" it purports to present.

Djordje said...

Her movie will also be added to the list of go-to movies that now substitute for 'history' with today's post-literate society. Do you want to know what happened in post-Jugoslavia?Why, just go to the local video store and rent one of a number of Hollywood revisions of Balkan history. Classics like "Behind Emeny Lines" not to mention the plethora of flics that depict Serbs as evil geniuses, like MI III, will not only fill in the blanks of history, but will also confirm the West as champions of the underdog.
A rhetorical aside: why are so many Holocost museums/memorials necessary in the US( Skokie Il ?!?)?

Gray Falcon said...

Sadly, that's precisely how a lot of "education" in this country works.

Now as to the aside: I think the Skokie museum may have something to do with the Illinois Nazis.

As for the proliferation of such museums, I think it is absolutely right and proper for the survivors of the actual event (and their descendants and their communities) to memorialize it.

What we're seeing now is the Empire memorializing it so as to retroactively dub WW2 as a great struggle against the Holocaust - when it was actually nothing of the sort. But if that argument is planted in people's minds, it's a lot easier to get them to accept the doctrine of a "human rights" Empire, bombing for peace.

aelisheva said...

Leaving a comment here since the Washington Examiner (linked here) felt it fit to delete my comment there... First I said "puke" - not the most brilliant, but a pretty reasonable reaction to the *glamour shot* at the *Holocaust* Museum ... Then, I said a few extremely mild words about the characterization of the 90s war as genocide being an overreach (I didn't mention that it's also a moral outrage...)...Now, maybe I'm naive and an eternal optimist, but I've come to believe that the only reason the exhibit hasn't been tossed out is that the museum (and apparently, the Washington Examiner) are just scared to death of the possibility of offending this or that Muslim advocacy group, I mean, they *have to* know by now that the whole genocide thesis never carried any water, that it was always plain old shilling for one side... they must know it, they are just terrified to rock the boat, which is sort of understandable, but….
PS. Djordje, There aren’t a lot places where people feels it’s safe to put Holocaust centers, that’s why they’re in the US even though it seems strange (it even did to me at first), you need to look at it from the perspective of the people who are building them, it just seems like the place where Jews aren’t targeted as much and it’s where the people with a family history with it live now… Yes, it is really deplorable that that Bosnian Muslims faked their way into some of the programs: The best I can say for the people who let them is that basically they were really ignorant about the nature of the propaganda that was being sold to them.

Djordje said...

Yes, I chose Skokie off the top of my head because of the seeming absurdity of such a site. When you mentioned Illinios nazis, it might not seem so incongruous. I suppose it is not beyond the realm of possibility to cede that there exists the level of cynicism within the power structure to make that choice.

Gray Falcon said...

Americans being (generally speaking) both ignorant and good-natured, they tend to believe what they are told. Lord help the media and the politicians the day the critical mass of the people figures out they've been lied to and how.

What makes the "Bosnian genocide" so insidious is that its purveyors have deliberately targeted the Jewish public opinion in the U.S., trying to piggyback on the Holocaust - while at the same time both denying and diminishing it,and covering up their own role in it.

Unfortunately, one can keep cheating smart people far longer than stupid people, because smart people are unwilling to admit to themselves they've been cheated in the first place.

kapetan Mile said...

the movie could have been a huge blockbuster.............if only the truth was told

Gray Falcon said...

@ Aelisheva: got both messages, not a problem.