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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Part II: Iraq Vet Zack Bazzi on War -- and The War Tapes

Paul Rieckhoff, Zack Bazzi, Abbie Pickett, and Perry Jeffries

My coverage of the 2006 YearlyKos Convention continues with a focus on Staff Sgt. Zack Bazzi, one of the four panelists who took part in the tremendous View from the Ground: Iraq Veterans on the War and Returning Home discussion. He's also one of the three soldiers/cameramen who made the new film The War Tapes.

Although viewing may not be suitable if you're coping with PTSD, the film is important from an educational standpoint for the American public. The movie, currently set to open in select theaters across the country following a strong opening in New York City, has already snagged a Tribeca Film Festival award for best international documentary.

Give a listen to an exclusive interview I completed with Zack this past Monday night. And take a look back at Part I to learn about Abbie Pickett and the other panelists (who will have their own posts in the coming days) before jumping into Part II.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Zack Bazzi is a professional soldier, a great American, and now a movie star.

All right. That last one there is a bit of an exaggeration, but he's headed in that direction -- fast. (Watch out George Clooney!) Besides everything already listed, Zack's also super nice and gracious as can be. On Monday, he agreed to answer a few questions on the movie, on war, on the troops who are fighting in it.

Tonight I'm excited to share my second interview with him -- the first one that I thought we'd recorded hadn't, in fact, recorded. Ouch. I guess he's been through more trying circumstances lately than having to redo an interview (thanks, Zack); he handled it with ease and grace. And, although I really grieve for some of the lost musings that made it on the first run-through but didn't find their way onto the second, I hope you agree that this soldier is the best of the best in every way.

Listen to my interview with Zack Bazzi, June 19, 2006 (turn up the volume)

While you're listening to the podcast, I thought I'd tell you a little more about the excellent documentary he stars in: The War Tapes. The film was shown for us at YearlyKos, and I have to say I've never experienced anything quite like it before. Not a difficult thing to say, because there's never been a war movie like this before. (That's Zack Bazzi, Executive Producer Chuck Lacy and Supreme Promo Guy Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg in the picture to the right.)

Just out from AP:

The movie was the brainchild of director Deborah Scranton of Goshen, who got an offer to embed with a Manchester-based company of the 172nd Mountain Infantry Regiment, thanks to a previous documentary she had made about World War II veterans from New Hampshire.

Instead, she persuaded 10 guardsmen in Charlie Company of the 3rd Battalion to take cameras to Iraq, then guided and encouraged them via e-mail and instant messaging. Five stuck with the project from March 2004 to February 2005, and three are featured prominently: Moriarty and Sgts. Zack Bazzi and Stephen Pink.

Scranton and her crew also filmed the three and their families during the men's training, their deployment and for 10 months after their return. She says she had no political agenda: She simply wanted Americans to see the soldiers' experiences, whether good, bad, ugly or heroic. "I believe in the power of empathy," she said. "So often, people see a soldier and they see an armed cipher."

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, director of "Baseball" and "The Civil War," gave Scranton the award for best international documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York last month. He calls the movie a "remarkably clear-eyed view of what's going on there."

"She's just dropped us right onto the front lines," he said. "It's not overtly political, so it gathers everybody in. It allows you to have thoughts and conversations across what is an ever-increasing political divide in our country."

But the movie is political as far as showing us what KBR has been up to in Iraq, for example, and letting us into some of the more private thoughts of our soldiers fighting overseas. Head on over to see the power of the film by spending some time with the dozen clips available online.

Clips I'd highly recommend: the movie trailor, Man Down, and Night Vision.

Back to the AP piece, Zack shows us how important the voices of our returning veterans are:
Bazzi, a Lebanese immigrant who speaks fluent Arabic, is a "proud and happy soldier" who had no qualms about following orders, but thinks the war is probably not in the United States' best interests. "There's nothing un-American, unpatriotic or wimpy about being against the war. There's nothing patriotic about blind conformity," he said in an interview.

He added: "I've earned my opinion: I spent a year in a combat zone."

Now a staff sergeant, he was the only one of the three to re-enlist following the Iraq deployment. Before joining the Guard, he served in the Army, which he sees as an honorable institution. "The Army is a tool: It can be used for bad wars and good wars. ... You can only hope your leaders send you to the right war, if there is such a thing," he said.

Bazzi, 27, is finishing a degree in international affairs and psychology at the University of New Hampshire, which he said he could not have done without service-related financial help.

Zack is definitely a take-charge kind of guy. But, that doesn't mean he's all serious and no fun. To make my point, don't miss the chance to get a glimpse of Zack's wisecracking side (and one of the funnier moments in the movie), by viewing the Asscrack clip.

Thanks, again, Zack for your service to our country in and out of uniform.

And I hope everyone gets an opportunity this summer to see this important film. Shows are being added as the buzz picks up. Here's the current schedule:


Cinema Village
22 East 12 Street


AMC Empire 25
234 West 42 Street

06/22 - CONCORD, NH (Capitol Center for the Arts)
Special Concord Event: On opening night, June 22nd, at the 7:00 pm screening, come meet the soldiers of the New Hampshire National Guard from C Company, 3rd of the 172nd Mountain Infantry plus the New Hampshire based director, Deborah Scranton, Vermonter Exec Producer Chuck Lacy, and Major Greg Heilshorn the Public Affairs Officer of the New Hampshire National Guard. They'll be there to talk about the making of the movie and the soldiers' deployment in Iraq.

06/23 - MANCHESTER, NH (Regal Cinemas 9)
06/30 - WASHINGTON, DC (E Street Cinema)
06/30 - BOSTON, MA (Kendall Square Cinema)
06/30 - SAN FRANCISCO, CA (The Castro Theatre)
06/30 - BERKLEY, CA (Landmark Shattuck Cinemas)
07/07 - CHICAGO, IL (The Music Box Theatre)
07/07 - SAN RAFAEL, CA (Rafael Film Center)
07/14 - SAN JOSE, CA (Camera 12)
07/14 - WILTON, NH (Town Hall Cinema)
07/14 - WILKES-BARRE, PA (R/C Wilkes-Barre Movies 14)
07/17 - KEENE, NH (Colonial Theatre)
07/21 - BALTIMORE, MD (The Charles Theatre)
07/28 - SACRAMENTO, CA (The Crest Theatre)
08/04 - NASHVILLE, TN (Belcourt Theatre)
08/04 - LINCOLN, NE (Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center)
08/11 - TUSCON, AZ (The Loft Cinema)
08/11 - STAMFORD, CT (Avon Theatre)
08/18 - HARTFORD, CT (Real Art Ways)
08/27 - OJAI, CA (Playhouse Theatre)
08/30 - PORTLAND, ME (The Movies on Exchange)
09/01 - DENVER, CO (Starz FilmCenter)
09/08 - AUSTIN, TX (Landmark Dobie Cinemas)
09/15 - MINNEAPOLIS, MN (Landmark Lagoon Cinemas)
09/22 - DETROIT, MI (Detroit Institute of Art)
09/22 - FLINT, MI (National Amusements Cinema 10)

More dates and cities to be added soon- please check back for updates! If your city isn't listed, and you want to see The War Tapes in a theatre near you, sign up on our Frappr map and we'll try and make it happen!

If you don't see your city listed, why not work to bring it to your city? Tell friends and family about it. Ask your local indie theater if they'll show it. Help these independent filmmakers get their work out there so that others can have an opportunity to see what's really going on in Iraq.

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