"Hijacking Catastrophe" is a documentary for the converted, aiming its barbs at the administration's use of 9/11 as a pretext for war.
By FRANK EPISALE
It's difficult to objectively evaluate a film with so topical and
emotional a focus as "Hijacking Catastrophe." Similar to "Fahrenheit 9/11"
in its inevitable divisiveness and subversive intentions, Sut Jhally and
Jeremy Earp's sharply pointed new documentary will be compelling to
those who sympathize with its cause but unlikely to persuade anyone
else. As a rallying cry for those already committed to voting the
current presidential administration out of office, it is at least
moderately successful propaganda, but as a film with hopes for a wider
audience and impact it falls short on a number of levels, most notably
in its failure to maintain even the most superficial patina of
objectivity or rigorous journalistic standards.
While "Fahrenheit" pre-emptively parries accusations of
partisanship with Michael Moore's trademark folksiness and deceptively
self-deprecating humor, "Catastrophe" maintains an over-the-top
approximation of urgency by relentlessly employing cheesy B-horror-movie
music, all rumbling strings and ominous electronics. This and other
heavy-handed touches (an opening quote from Hermann Goering, etc.)
undermine the seriousness of the film in a way that is truly
unfortunate. If the filmmakers had been able to trust that their subject
matter would reveal itself as ominous enough without the spooky
trappings, it might have been a catalyst for some much-needed discussion
about the methods and motivations of the neoconservative notion of
imperialism now firmly in place in our foreign policy.
|Full title: Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire.|
Directed by: Jeremy Earp, Sut Jhally.
Produced by: Jeremy Earp, Sut Jhally.
Narrated by: Julian Bond.
Beneath the scare tactics, this is a fairly conventional
History Channel-type documentary, juxtaposing talking heads with
newsreel footage and voice-of-god narration (provided by Julian Bond).
The talking heads themselves are a mix of familiar faces from the
antiwar movement (Noam Chomsky, Norman Mailer, Scott Ritter) and lesser-known journalists, policy wonks, etc. Occasionally, the relevance of one
of the presumed experts is puzzling (Michael Franti: musician,
Spearhead, or Vandana Shiva, physicist). While everyone interviewed
speaks articulately and authoritatively, it might have served the film
to better contextualize the speakers as to their qualification to speak
on the issues presented.|
The issues themselves are as alarming as ever: current
policy's similarity to neoconservative think-tank doctrine from 20 years
ago, the financially untenable borrowing from future generations to pay
for today's wars and tax cuts, media complicity in the marketing of the
war, the global psychological warfare implicit in "shock and awe"
tactics, the dismantling of the Bill of Rights, blatantly Orwellian
propaganda, and so on. All of this information is available from various
sources in bookstores and on the Internet, but there are a number of
chilling moments as the interviews are juxtaposed in synergistic ways.|
The film spends a great deal of time attempting to dismantle
the Bush administration's tactics leading up to the war in Iraq,
but it loses credibility by employing so many of the same cheap-scare
techniques. As a starting point for doing one's own research, "Hijacking
Catastrophe" might be useful, but in terms of what's really needed a compelling argument to sway undecided voters in swing states it's a
|SEPTEMBER 9, 2004|
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