Tuesday, March 1, 2011

No End In Sight

     Charles Ferguson's No End In Sight left me fuming with an angry and heavy heart. Ferguson presents his audience with example after example of the lack of thought which went into planning the take-over of Iraq. There is one section specifically where we switch back and forth between interviews with two different people talking about the same thing. Paul Hughes is explaining how the advice of experts was ignored while Walter Slocombe dances around the fact that he ignored warnings and made important decisions without informing U.S. government personnel working directly in Iraq. Throughout the film I kept thinking about how many people have adopted the view of "I'm just one person, I can't possibly make a difference or a noticeable impact." Yet the story this documentary tells is how a fairly small group of hasty people made some rash decisions that had deadly effects for both Iraqis and Americans--a small group of people is essentially responsible for the complete collapse of an entire nation in the middle east which is now ravaged by war, chaos, and terror. Is this what President Bush meant by bringing freedom to that nation? Is "freedom" injecting the already broken government of Iraq with decay and the means to destroy itself? I don't think so. 
     Ferguson's storytelling approach was incredibly powerful. He managed to get access to a deep well of information to support what he wanted to say. Although several major public figures denied to contribute their voices to this story (Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, and many others), Ferguson retrieved a lot of archival footage and arranged several interviews with people who had a lot of information on what actually happened. The Iraq War has always been a confusing subject to me, and that is partially because much of the information has been kept from and altered for the public citizens of the United States. Ferguson clearly had an agenda, and that was to prove his point that the majority of the details of the Iraq War were senseless and not thought through. Major mistakes were made and not addressed or fixed. He did it in a very straightforward way, presenting all the facts in interviews coupled with supporting archival footage in a way that was very clear and easy to understand. The archival footage made a powerful statement to me, particularly footage of the devastation in Iraq: crumbled buildings, dead and dying people, and people huddling in confusion and poverty as their home falls to chaos. The events that have transpired in dealing with Iraq are truly shocking, even more than I realized. 
     Ferguson succeeded in convincing me that more than anything, the struggle in Iraq has helped no one and solved nothing, it has created a world of problems for Iraqis and for Americans in their relations with that country, it has driven our country into massive debt, and what have we achieved? We have successfully brought a nation to its feet, pretty much forcing it into a state of destructive, gruesome warfare and making things "worse than they ever were before with Saddam" as it was put by an Iraqi citizen. This film made me ashamed to be an American. The effects of this war in Iraq are devastating, and I don't know how to change it. I am grateful though, for filmmakers like Charles Ferguson who go out and get their hands dirty in order to educate the public when others would leave them in ignorance. Educating our nation, even if it's just one person at a time, is one way to implement change. And hardly anything is more powerful than ideas presented through media--like a documentary. Ferguson has certainly done his part to start to change the way the U.S. deals with the situation in Iraq, and I pray more of us will do the same. 


  1. Do you want to be a filmmaker like Charles Ferguson? Though, I know you seem very pro towards him, his views and his film think about how it really says something when someone is willing to go out of their way to make their own country look bad. Yeah, we need to fix a lot of things but Ajami is a good movie to see that they have a pretty flawed country as well. Think about it, at first that movie seemed similar to a documentary like this one. It seemed to focus on the bad acts people will do there but then goes into how we can't really hate someone whose story we know. I guess it's just hard for me to believe that America is entirely corrupt.

    In the beginning of your post, you say that one person can make the difference but in the end you explain you don't know how to change America. How can we make a difference? I think a problem with America is we are fast to point fingers but easy to justify. How can we make a difference? If it's so easy for one person to destroy the world, how can we make it a better world?

    I like how you posted on my blog that "..there are plenty of filmmakers taking care of the smack-talk, the exposes, and the films with obvious agendas to tear apart people or organizations, and I don't need to contribute to that." I don't want to contribute to that either. I think there are many ways we can take on documentary filmmaking. Maybe the most charitable filmmakers don't make as much money but they do something good for this world.

  2. Yes I realize I may have come across as hypocritical...I DO think one person can be the difference for good or for ill, but something that depressed me after watching this film is that I had no idea how I can contribute as an American citizen, to fix what has been broken. I've noticed that I tend to like documentaries a lot more when they offer some kind of solution at the end. They present you with a sad or depressing or distressing view of the world, and then they say "Don't worry, here's something YOU can do!" But Ferguson doesn't do that here. It makes me wonder what is more effective: helping the audience see hope and ways to fix problems, or letting the audience come to that conclusion on their own. I'd like to think there is something I can do after seeing "No End in Sight", but perhaps I won't be able to figure out what that is until I give it some more prayerful and thoughtful consideration.

  3. I haven't seen this documentary, but it seems to me the title "No End in Sight" is telling of the plight which you are personally experiencing. I can definitely relate to you on the aspect of being frustrated when you see a film and it riles you up, but basically leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth because you feel hopeless and able to help the issue at hand.

    Sometimes I think that this feeling of sheer frustration is intentional by the filmmakers in this instance. Actually, I am about 99.999% sure it is intentional. Perhaps their goal is just to inform the formerly ignorant public of an injustice that is taking place? Also, perhaps they are trying to get people so worked up that at least one person will be inspired to work on implementing a solution to the problem? I could be totally wrong, but these are typically the questions that I ask myself when I am disconcerted at the ending of a documentary.

  4. Good thoughts guys. Coco, you are not a hypocrite at all--no need to apologize. Thanks for your honest reaction and thoughts to this provocative film.