The film was over and the credits rolling, but the theater audience remained mute, staring straight ahead at the screen.
It was only after the post-viewing speakers walked toward the stage that the silence was broken, as the audience members rose one by one, their applause infectious until the capacity crowd was on its collective feet, eyes bright but expression still glazed.
We had gathered 88 minutes earlier at the Wexner Center for the Arts to screen “Dirty Wars,” the new documentary accompaniment to the book of the same name, written by investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill.
The film was breathtaking in style and substance, telling the story of Scahill’s investigation on America’s hidden wars across the world, a war that kills foreign civilians and American citizens in the name of our national security, which places more value on American lives than all others.
I got there early for the chance to buy Scahill’s book and meet one of the most recognized investigative reporters of our time. His first book, “Blackwater,” was a comprehensive and compelling look at the war zone contractors/mercenaries of the same name. He had spent three years researching “Dirty Wars,” joined in his pursuits by director Richard Rowley who shot while Scahill spoke–to those who lives had been destroyed in the name of American freedom.
Sitting alone at a table, Scahill greeted each visitor like it was a cocktail party: “Hi, I’m Jeremy. Thanks for coming.”
It was an amazing journalism moment to talk to Scahill for a few minutes, joined by my students Pat Brennan and Patrick Maks, who joined me at the screening. We discussed journalism education and the superficial nature of news as reflected in moments like the media obsession with Jody Arias trial on the same day CNN closed its Bagdad bureau.
And then we watched his movie, filled with imagery no mainstream newscast will ever show. it was raw and honest and left many of us speechless as we listened to a post-viewing talk with Scahill’s and Rowley discuss technique and political policy. And I guarantee many in the audience will not look at the Obama administration–or its support of it–the same again.
No matter what your political leanings, take 88 minutes out of your life and watch “Dirty Wars.” Then see what you have to say.