Monday, May 01, 2006

Baghdad ER 

Bob Herbert (behind the NYTimes Select Firewall, so I can't link to it) has a column today about Baghdad ER, a new documentary from HBO. One of the directors is a friend of mine (in fact, I was at his wedding yesterday--congrats!) and from what he's told me it should be an incredible film. Here's an excerpt of what Bob Herbert wrote about it:
In the first few moments of the documentary film "Baghdad ER," we see a man dressed in hospital scrubs carrying a bloodied arm that has been amputated above the elbow. He deposits it in a large red plastic bag.

This HBO production is reality television with a vengeance — warfare as it really is. And while it is frightening, harrowing and deeply painful to watch, it should be required viewing for all but the youngest Americans. It will premiere May 21.

For two months in 2005, the directors Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill were given unprecedented access by the Army to the 86th Combat Support Hospital in the Green Zone in Baghdad. Working 12-hour shifts, they watched — and taped — the heroic struggle of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to salvage as many lives as possible from what amounted to a nonstop conveyor belt of bloodied, broken and burned G.I.'s.

At one point in the film, a specialist who survived a roadside bomb attack murmurs from a stretcher, "It was the worst thing I ever saw in my life, sir."

"What was that?" he is asked.

Recalling his last view of a buddy who was killed in the attack, he says, "My friend didn't have a face.
Now, I think they didn't just film in the Green Zone hospital, but also filmed Medivac crews, military hospitals in Germany and also at Walter Reed in Maryland (I'm not 100% sure of that, but I think that's right). In any event, I'll be going to an advance screening next week and blog about it after I see it.* Based on my discussions with the director, I'm convinced the film will treat the subject matter with both frankness and feeling.

*I'll have to see if they give us guidelines or prohibitions in terms of writing about the film, as it's not a press screening or anything like that.
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