The War Tapes

Runs at Varsity, Fri., Oct. 20–Thurs., Oct. 26. Not rated. 97 minutes.

On a strictly experiential level, Deborah Scranton's The War Tapes is remarkable, tactile, and eye-opening; as a piece of sociopolitical culture with context and ramifications of its own, it's a worthless ration of war propaganda—ethnocentric, redneck, and enabling. A journalist given clearance for embedment with the New Hampshire National Guard, Scranton instead handed out video cameras to a handful of guardsmen, and her film is an edit of that footage—plus predictable interviews with their families. In fact, for all of the edge-of-battle immediacy, the upshot of Scranton's assemblage is concern for the feelings of tremendously sympathetic American grunts as they disdainfully observe the indigenous populace from a distance as if they were hyenas on the veld. It's no surprise that the soldiers are prone to mercenary self- regard and care only about getting home, not about where they've been, what they've done, or why. But what about us? It's the lazy cinematic equivalent of a ribbon magnet. MICHAEL ATKINSON

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