Thursday, January 9, 2020

Peshmerga (2016) begins a theatrical run tomorrow at the Quad as part of Bernard-Henri Lévy x 4

What if a philosopher made a war documentary? Bernard-Henri Levy has done just that and the result is Peshmerga about the Iraqi Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Iraq.

To be honest  Levy has made at least one other war doc, which I'm told is overly pretentious. Peshmerga does suffer from it's director's overly self indulgent navel gazing but at the same time the film does have an effect on it's audience.

The effect is due entirely to the you are there shooting of the film. Beginning with a POV shot of two men running in the desert which takes a sudden turn when one is blown up Peshmerga grabs it's audience by the throat and never lets you go.

I suspect at this point I should warn you that there are images in this film which will bother many. We see the war dead and some footage of the nastiness inflicted on people by ISIS. We see people die unpleasant deaths.

What makes the film stand out, and to some degree lessens the impact of the story is Levy's purple narration. Taking an intellectual stance that kind of puts him outside of the events in the film Levy spins the film in some intriguing ways that make you engage with the film with you brain and not just your gut. At the same time because some of the musings sound overly intellectual some of the connections to the heart are severed and we never completely engage on an emotional level. The upshot of which is that some of the raw visceral power that should cause us to act or react on what we are seeing. instead we look at the tale and nod to ourselves and say - oh isn't that terrible before moving on.

Of course that doesn't prevent the film from hanging around in your brain for several days forcing you to ponder it for a long time after.

For details on the run and the entire Bernard-Henri Lévy x 4 series go here

And for Nate Hood's alternate take on the film go here.

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