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in Filmmaking
on Aug 28, 2008

During this election season I recommend taking a break from the cable talking heads and reviewing some of the independent media that has been produced over the last couple of years about American foreign policy. One of the best documentaries is Charles Ferguson’s Academy Award-nominated No End in Sight. As Ray Pride report at Movie City Indie, Ferguson is streaming the film free on YouTube.

Pride reports:

No End in Sight is being made available free to the public to reveal the facts about the Bush Administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq to voters concerned with the issues of national security and the adverse economic impact of the war when making decisions in this crucial election. NO END IN SIGHT condenses and clarifies the murky decisions made before and after the invasion and is invaluable to the public’s understanding of what went wrong. The film is both an analysis of an ill-conceived war and a plea to consider the impact of future military actions. According to the film’s director, Charles Ferguson, he underwrote the exhibition of the film on YouTube because, “I wanted to make the film, and the facts about the occupation of Iraq, accessible to a larger group of people. My hope is that this will contribute to the process of making better foreign policy decisions moving forward in Iraq and elsewhere. During this election year, it’s important to examine the leadership mentality and policies that caused Iraq to descend into such a horrific state that after 4,000 American deaths, at least a quarter million Iraqis killed, 4 million refugees, and over $2 trillion spent, Iraq remains in a state of near collapse.”

Beginning September 1 you can watch the entire movie on this YouTube channel.

I interviewed Ferguson a year ago for our Summer, 2007 issue. Here’s my intro, and you can read the entire piece at this link.

In the current debate over the Iraq war, Charles Ferguson’s debut documentary, No End in Sight, takes what is perhaps the most troubling position of all: the war could have gone right. Largely sidestepping questions about the justness of the war and focusing on the few months leading up to and immediately following the invasion, Ferguson pinpoints the mistakes that laid the groundwork for the current conflict. And while it’s commonplace to view Iraq’s violent civil strife as being just as inevitable as the discovery of WMDs was once believed to have been, Ferguson assembles a convincing group of talking heads — including General Jay Garner and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage — who assert otherwise and lay blame accordingly.

For news-aware viewers, Ferguson’s basic argument will be familiar. Insufficient troop levels, the failure to stop Iraqi postwar looting, poor advance planning and the decision to disband the Iraqi military combined to create an active, deadly insurgency that the U.S. military was unequipped to handle. What makes Ferguson’s doc revelatory and necessary, however, is his gripping and exact detailing of these failures and his giving voice to the government officials (largely from the State Department) whose realistic counsel was deliberately ignored by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.

With a Ph.D. in political science from MIT, Ferguson was well versed in the arcana of foreign-policy-speak, but before beginning No End in Sight he had never made a movie. Having achieved success in the technology field — in 1996 he sold his company Vermeer Technologies to Microsoft, which incorporated Vermeer’s FrontPage into its Microsoft Office software — he self-financed his film, bringing on a talented team headed up by executive producer Alex Gibney, whose own documentary on Iraq, Taxi to the Dark Side, is being released later this year. I sat down with Ferguson at New York’s Mercer Hotel to discuss making a first doc, post–Michael Moore political filmmaking and the future of Iraq. Magnolia Pictures opens the film in late July.

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