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  •  REVIEW: SEPTEMBER TAPES



    September Tapes

    Reality bites back

    "September Tapes" is a descent into the hell of the Afghanistan war by three Americans with a camera, a determination to find Osama bin Laden, and no idea what they're getting themselves into.

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com

    How much of "September Tapes" can you believe? Well, the filmmakers themselves have declared it a "hybrid of fact and fiction," and that's a very disconcerting thing to watch. Wait a minute, you're constantly asking yourself — did that just happen or was it staged? Sometimes there's no way to know.

      
    SEPTEMBER TAPES
    Directed by: Christian Johnston.
    Produced by: George Calil, Christian Johnston, Judd Payne, Wali Razaqi, Matthew Rhodes.
    Written by: Christian Johnston, Christian Van Gregg.
    Cast: George Calil, Wali Razaqi, Sunil Sadarangani, Baba Jon.
    Edited by: Darren Mann.

    Related links: Official site
    But if you don't agonize over every scene, the film is certainly "true" in the way that a great novel is "true." It shows us the reality of a certain place and time — the place being Afghanistan and the time being now.

    The conceit is this: Three Americans — an Army veteran, a translator and a cameraman — set out on a quest into war-torn Afghanistan to interview Osama bin Laden, and all that comes back out is a bundle of videotapes documenting their journey. The reality, or my hunch as to what really happened, is that the three started with a camera and a concept, put themselves into a war zone, and took a real chance with their lives to come back with this only partially staged movie. What happens to them is a story; what happens around them is terrifyingly authentic. If "Survivor" were real, it wouldn't just be about eating some bugs — it would be like this.

    September Tapes  
    Their odyssey takes them into the homes of gun dealers, through potentially lethal roadblocks, into the desert with the militias, on the ground with AK-47's pointed at their heads, and up to at least the periphery of the real war that's still raging there. The film starts with a lot more talk about the danger than real evidence of it, but the tension level cranks mercilessly up, and by the end we've been through a heart-pounding hell along with these characters. In its handheld-camera simplicity, it's more immediate and wrenching than Hollywood's big-budget war-glorifying extravaganzas.

    I've puzzled for weeks over the film's politics, and although there is a certain all-American lone-wolf bravado — a little bit of "Rambo Witch Project" — to it, I think it navigates this precarious subject without taking sides in a political debate. What it does is to yank us eyes-first into a place that we, in our living rooms, have known only as a clichÄ. Somewhere in this vast, unreadable desert, bloodthirsty killers lurk, chieftans rove with their posses, American helicopters rain fire, frontier justice rules, and people disappear in an instant.

    This may or may not be a true story about hunting Bin Laden, but it is a true enough story about the place where American soldiers have been sent and not always come back. (It also makes the right choice by plunging into almost-forgotten Afghanistan, where the real war on terror has always been, rather than Iraq, site of the diversionary war.) It feels right. "Anything we get will be more than I've seen on TV," says our lead character, Don, as the group arrives in country, and I agree. Americans should flock to see it, if only to get a vivid feeling for what it means next time they hear stories from the "lawless Afghan-Pakistani border." This is that place.

    SEPTEMBER 24, 2004
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on September Tapes:

  • September tapes   from Emu, Nov 24, 2004
  • Re: September tapes   from ruddiger, Sep 6, 2005
  • Re: September tapes   from chan Jay, Nov 2, 2006
  • september tapes - christian van gregg   from g.peploe, Nov 24, 2004
  • Re: september tapes - christian van gregg   from n. lee, Feb 22, 2005
  • Re: september tapes - christian van gregg   from Michael George, Jun 2, 2005
  • DOD declares movie is real   from DODRep, Apr 24, 2005
  • Re: september tapes - christian van gregg   from chet, Aug 27, 2005
  • Re: september tapes - christian van gregg   from randyn calvin, Oct 12, 2005
  • Re: september tapes - christian van gregg   from Chan Jay, Oct 30, 2006
  • Re: september tapes - christian van gregg   from espionage, Mar 27, 2008
  • The real hunt   from Conrad, Dec 12, 2010
  • Re: september tapes - christian van gregg   from Espionage, Mar 27, 2008
  • Re: september tapes - christian van gregg   from David, Sep 29, 2005
  • september tapes   from Sue Van Sant, Jan 6, 2005
  • Re: september tapes   from roger courtney, Jan 12, 2005
  • sept tapes   from bile, Jan 8, 2005
  • Re: sept tapes   from Sylvia, Feb 5, 2005
  • September Tapes   from Sylvia, Feb 5, 2005
  • Re: September Tapes   from susan gillig, Feb 7, 2005
  • Re: September Tapes   from ilija, Apr 9, 2005
  • Re: September Tapes   from Chan Jay, Nov 2, 2006
  • Re: September Tapes   from Nancy Lee, Feb 7, 2005
  • Re: September Tapes   from Nella Mellott, Feb 11, 2005
  • Re: September Tapes   from Richard, Feb 9, 2005
  • Re: September Tapes   from ragsdrichest, Feb 26, 2005
  • Re: September Tapes   from lisa, Mar 4, 2005
  • Re: September Tapes   from Just Love It, Mar 5, 2005
  • Re: September Tapes   from Nella Mellott, Mar 1, 2005
  • Re: September Tapes   from Robert, Mar 9, 2005
  • Sept 8 tapes   from niteranger, Feb 11, 2005
  • september tapes - blur people   from nadmin, Feb 16, 2005
  • Re: september tapes - blur people   from Bro. Pain, Oct 10, 2010
  • [no subject]   from myce, Feb 28, 2005
  • damn stupid movie   from ralph, Mar 15, 2005
  • Re: damn stupid movie   from Vic Ram, Mar 19, 2005
  • Re: damn stupid movie   from Lester Van, Mar 29, 2005
  • september tapes   from chris, Mar 21, 2005
  • Re: september tapes   from Hector R, Mar 29, 2005
  • Re: september tapes   from pogpog, May 27, 2005
  • Best Review Yet   from Skjellifetti, Dec 30, 2005
  • Re: september tapes   from Lee Van, Mar 29, 2005
  • Re: september tapes   from EDWARD NOVA, Apr 3, 2005
  • blind hero   from Dominik, Apr 3, 2005
  • What message?   from Jills, Apr 8, 2005
  • [no subject]   from ilija, Apr 9, 2005
  • Blair Witch redux   from Vincent, Apr 24, 2005
  • Don't hate   from scocar, Apr 24, 2005
  • Juvenile   from M_Vee, Apr 26, 2005
  • Re: Juvenile   from lee sant, Apr 27, 2005
  • Re: Juvenile   from n/a, May 22, 2005
  • Re: Juvenile   from alex, Jul 10, 2005
  • Are You Kidding?   from Sommer, May 28, 2005
  • Re: Are You Kidding?   from anogi, May 30, 2005
  • Stupid   from whatever, Aug 15, 2005
  • Re: Are You Kidding?   from michael, Oct 20, 2005
  • Re: Are You Kidding?   from Anonymous, Jun 10, 2005
  • Music....   from Gunnard Doboze, Jun 17, 2005
  • September Tapes   from Bill, Jul 25, 2005
  • Re: September Tapes   from Northern neighbor, Aug 25, 2005
  • MAKES ME SICK   from , Sep 17, 2005
  • Re: MAKES ME SICK   from George Michael, Oct 12, 2005
  • Re: MAKES ME SICK   from Jime, Dec 14, 2008
  • SEPTEMBER TAPES   from Scott, Nov 7, 2005
  • [no subject]   from Bubak, Nov 7, 2005
  • Spetember Tapes   from Benji, Jan 31, 2006
  • September Tapes   from , Feb 1, 2006
  • This movie kick ass   from Damian Rivas Valdez, Feb 22, 2006
  • Re: This movie kick ass   from travis tracy, Mar 15, 2006
  • Re: This movie kick ass   from WESTON, Mar 22, 2006
  • Re: This movie kick ass   from McKenna Mae Lee, May 9, 2006
  • Re: This movie kick ass   from Steve Van, May 28, 2006
  • Re: This movie kick ass   from Jim Sant, Jun 20, 2006
  • Re: This movie kick ass   from mary margaret Pete, Jul 4, 2006
  • REALISE THE REALITY   from b22uk, Feb 1, 2006
  • positive impressions for strong subject matter   from Kasen Courtney, Jul 20, 2006
  • Courage and filmmaking   from Broady Bennett, Jul 20, 2006
  • September Tapes   from Jami, Jul 27, 2006
  • Re: September Tapes   from may george, Aug 2, 2006
  • Re: September Tapes   from kg, Aug 24, 2006
  • Re: September Tapes   from Ray Lee, Aug 31, 2006
  • Funding ??   from marco, Sep 11, 2006
  • Re: Funding ??   from gregg lee, Sep 19, 2006
  • Tragic failure   from Jumpy, Sep 27, 2006
  • Re: Tragic failure   from Nancy Michael, Oct 30, 2006
  • positive impressions for strong subject matter   from Lee Babcock, Nov 4, 2006
  • Re: positive impressions for strong subject matter   from Claire Van, Jan 14, 2007
  • finally an other view   from yojimbo, Dec 3, 2006
  • Amazing film   from jon, Jan 14, 2007
  • September Tapes question? Ask me, I made it.   from christian Johnston, Feb 8, 2007
  • Re: September Tapes question? Ask me, I made it.   from Nancy Gregg, Feb 9, 2007
  • Great Find!   from Nathan Courtney, Mar 21, 2007
  • sept movie   from John & Lorri, Apr 15, 2007
  • SEPT 8 TAPES   from MARK CARROLL, Apr 19, 2007
  • September Tapes Great Find!   from Mary Loring, Apr 27, 2007
  • Hurrah!   from summer jones, May 30, 2007
  • Interesting production   from Jim Courtney, Jun 28, 2007
  • Old-Timer likes 'September Tapes'   from August Johnson, Jul 28, 2007
  • Great Find! I bought it!   from Hep Nelson, Aug 21, 2007
  • Scumbags!   from Andres Duran, Aug 21, 2007
  • Re: Reply   from James Everly, Aug 28, 2007
  • Great Find!   from Leisel Leonard, Sep 27, 2007
  • Wow! Why didn't we find this in the theatre?   from May Holmes, Nov 14, 2007
  • Re: Wow! Why didn't we find this in the theatre?   from Foreigner, Jan 11, 2008
  • Re: Wow! Why didn't we find this in the theatre?   from George Gabriel, Mar 27, 2008
  • Was the Wife on the Plane Real?   from Septem8er Tapes, Apr 24, 2008
  • Re: Was the Wife on the Plane Real?   from David, Dec 14, 2008
  • Why isn't this movie in the theatres?   from summer simpkins, Aug 1, 2008
  • Why isn't this movie in the theatres?   from dorie ;lowe, Aug 20, 2008
  • great movie.   from ma2k, Dec 14, 2008
  • WOW! I just saw this amazing film on tv.   from Mandy Jones, Dec 15, 2009
  • Re: WOW! I just saw this amazing film on tv.   from Allie Minton, Aug 1, 2010
  • loved ever minute   from kandie, Dec 31, 2009
  • Powerful movie and message   from jane clark, Sep 11, 2010

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