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    Hijacking Catastrophe

    Plane talk

    "Hijacking Catastrophe" is a documentary for the converted, aiming its barbs at the administration's use of 9/11 as a pretext for war.


    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.

    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.
    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.

    Hijacking Catastrophe  
    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.

      Hijacking Catastrophe
    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 disappointment.

    SEPTEMBER 9, 2004

    Reader comments on Hijacking Catastrophe:

  • The intellgience are Wrong!!   from Maykel Abdelmessih, Nov 24, 2004
  • Re: The intellgience are Wrong!!   from frank episale, Nov 25, 2004
  • Talk About Nit Picking   from C. sykes, Feb 22, 2005
  • Karen Kwiatkowski   from Erin Platt, May 7, 2007
  • Re: intellegence   from Maykel abdelmessih, Feb 19, 2010

  • Post a comment on "Hijacking Catastrophe"