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Spring 2008 Iraq War Series

Iraq War: 5 Years and Counting
A Series of Films, Lectures and Panel Discussions

February – March, 2008
Vanderbilt University
Admission is free and open to the public.

The aim of the series is to bring home the reality and true cost of war by portrayals from many different angles – that of soldiers, their families, Iraqi citizens, corporate profiteers and the media. The truth comes to light in this series of films and lectures that offer many eye-opening windows on the war.

It is sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Students, Project Dialogue and the University Lectures Committee with additional support from Film Studies Program, Philosophy Department, Sarratt Art Studios, Vanderbilt Speakers Committee, and Vanderbilt Student Communications.

The Purpose For the Series

In his allegory of the cave, Plato likens ordinary people to prisoners deep in a cave watching images cast on the far wall by fires burning behind them. He imagines one man escaping into the daylight and discovering the truth. Here Plato equates images with darkness and error. And yet where the real is far away, out of reach, or hidden from view, we can be brought closer to the truth by images. These movies do not pretend there is a single truth. Reality is made up of many perspectives, like light flashing through a prism.

The Iraq War has been described as a War of Liberation, a search for Weapons of Mass Destruction, a plundering of Iraqi oil, and as the greatest military/foreign policy blunder in the history of America. And some of these movies, such as No End in Sight, do not pull any punches in their critical take on the true motives for the war, the lack of planning, and the disastrous consequences. On a more human level, there are the views of U.S. soldiers, Iraqi civilians, the returning vet and close family, and many others.

One of Plato’s objections to the poet in his ideal Republic was that they might (as Homer did) weaken the impulse to heroism by describing the sordid realities of death on the battlefield. We, on the other hand, in a more democratic spirit, rightly think that we need to know the truth in all its tragic detail to be able to make informed judgments. These movies offer many eye-opening windows on the war.

–David Wood

The Ground Truth
Tuesday, February 19
7 p.m. in Sarratt Cinema
Film response led by Monica Casper, Director of Women’s and Gender Studies, Associate Professor of Sociology
(2006) Director: Patricia Foulkrod
This insightful documentary film follows young Americans through recruitment, training, combat in Iraq and their return home. Professor Casper will discuss the film in terms of masculinity and disability issues. She will also situate it in the personal context of a recent loss of a family member in combat. 78 mins

Turtles Can Fly
Saturday, February 23
7 p.m. in Sarratt Cinema
Film response led by Sarah Childress, Graduate Student, English and Film Studies and Lisa Guenther, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
(2005) Director: Bahman Ghobadi
A well crafted coming-of-age drama set in a Kurdish refugee camp on the Iraqi-Turkish border on the eve of the invasion of Iraq by the United States. 98 mins

The War Tapes
Monday, February 25
7 p.m. in Sarratt Cinema
Film response led by Bill Smith, Professor of Psychology
(2006) Director: Deborah Scranton
The first documentary war movie filmed by soldiers themselves gives an authentic look at the conflict in Iraq as it plays out on the battlefield, in the barracks and on the home front. 94 mins

The Road to Guantanamo
Thursday, February 28
7 p.m. in The Commons Multipurpose Room 235
Film response led by Frank Wcislo, Dean of Commons, Associate Professor of History; Michael Bess, Chancellor’s Professor of History; Destiny Birdsong, Graduate Student, English; Yeo Ju, Graduate Student, English; and John Morrell, Graduate Student, English
(2006) Director: Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross
A riveting first-hand account of three British citizens who were held for two years at Guantanamo Bay without being charged with a crime. 95 mins

Control Room
Monday, March 10
7 p.m. in Sarratt Cinema
Film response led by Bruce Barry, Professor of Management and Sociology, Chair of Faculty Senate
(2004) Director: Jehane Noujam
An eye-opening documentary about Al Jazeera, the Arab world’s most popular news outlet and the most profound film to date on how the U.S. government has manipulated the news coverage in Iraq. 86 mins

Tuesday, March 11
7 p.m. in Sarratt Cinema
Lecture by Josh Rushing, former U.S. Marine captain, currently a correspondent at Al Jazerra English, author of Mission Al Jazeera: Build a Bridge, Seek the Truth, Change the World
When the United States invaded Iraq, Texas Marine Josh Rushing was posted to an unconventional battlefield: the U.S. media center in Doha, Qatar. As a media officer, Rushing was given talking points and soon found himself providing reporters with the White House spin on the war. In his lecture, Rushing blends his gripping personal story with fresh insight on the cultural misunderstandings rampant in the current war on terror.
Immediately following the lecture there will be a Q&A session and a book signing held in Sarratt lobby.

Iraq in Fragments
Sunday, March 23
7 p.m. in Sarratt Cinema
Film response led by Sara Figal, Assistant Professor of German
(2006) Director: James Longley
An evocative documentary of the war-torn country as seen through the eyes of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. 94 mins

Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers 
Tuesday, March 25
7 p.m. in Sarratt Cinema
Film response led by Bob Barsky, Professor of French and Comparative Literature and Forrest Perry, Graduate Student, Philosophy
(2006) Director: by Robert Greenwald
In a harrowing 75 minutes, Greenwald takes the viewer inside the lives of soldiers, truck drivers, widows and children who have been changed forever as a result of profiteering in the reconstruction of Iraq. 75 mins

No End in Sight
Thursday, March 27
7 p.m. in Sarratt Cinema
Film response led by Dean Masullo, Lecturer, English and American Studies and Helmut Smith, Martha Rivers Ingram Professor of History
(2007) Director: Charles Ferguson
This methodically edited documentary film chronicles Iraq’s descent into guerilla war, warlord rule, criminality and anarchy. 102 mins

In the Valley of Elah
Sunday, March 30
7 p.m. in Sarratt Cinema
Film response led by Michael Kreyling, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English
(2007) Director: Paul Haggis
A fictional drama based on the story of Richard Davis, an Iraq War veteran murdered after returning home in 2003. The film stars Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon and Charlize Theron. 120 mins

Program Organizers:

David Wood, Centennial Professor of Philosophy
JoEl Logiudice, Director, Office of Arts and Creative Engagement, Office of the Dean of Students

Check out our blog: Each film and event will give you a chance to respond and interact with the content and others here on the official blog for this film series. Watch the trailers and share your impressions before and after the films. Visit the blog at


Complimentary parking for Sarratt Cinema patrons is available in the 25th Avenue Garage (lot 20), enter from Highland Avenue. Sarratt Cinema is located on the first floor of the Sarratt Student Center on the Vanderbilt University campus at the corner of 24th Aveunue South and Vanderbilt Place.


The March 11 lecture by Josh Rushing Spin: The Art of Selling War has been cancelled. We apologize but the speaker was called unexpectedly overseas on assignment. We hope to reschedule this event next academic year.

Read more on the purpose for this series
Browse the films in this selection by clicking the images below