Friday, April 25, 2008

April and the Navy

That’s April as the fourth month of the year, not a name.

April 27th, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television will show the first of a ten-part series called “Carrier.” In 2005, a film crew embarked on the USS Nimitz for a six-month cruise that included combat operations: launch and recovery of fighter jets flying close air support for U.S. and coalition soldiers fighting in Iraq.

The opening paragraphs of the on-line “Introduction” to the series ( establish the overall tone and atmosphere of the film-makers as something akin to the Stockholm Syndrome – perfectly understandable in that once on the ship, that was their common experience for half a year:

“Making the film CARRIER required 17
filmmakers to take a six-month journey aboard
the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz during its
deployment to the Gulf in support of the Iraq
War. They disembarked (sic) from Coronado,
California on May 7, 2005 and returned there
November 8, 2005 with stops at Pearl Harbor,
Hong Kong, Guam, Kuala Lumpur, Bahrain
and Perth, Australia.

“The trip proved an evolution for the film crew
who spent the early weeks trying to find their
place while the 5,000 sailors and Marines around
them were too busy to take notice. Eventually, the
film crew discerned the ebb and flow of life on a
carrier, and began to feel more at home on board.
The ship’s crew not only accepted them but also
took a vested interest in the project, making
suggestions on the best places to film and providing
access to missions that helped capture the full
experience of the deployment.

“Jammed into their own staterooms, the crew that once
felt apart now felt kinship as they shared both trepidation
and jubilation awaiting the safe return of the carrier’s jet
fighters. When the huge emotional surge of seeing home
hit in November, the filmmakers knew how the Nimitz
crew must feel.”

The editing of the film into the ten one-hour segments took three years. Much has changed in Iraq and in the United States in that interval, most notably the shift in the attitude of the public from supporting to opposing Operation Iraqi Freedom. Despite this shift, carriers such as the Nimitz are still launching jets to support an increasingly U.S.-and-Iraqi-only armed conflict in which Iraqi civilians and Iraqi and coalition soldiers and other security personnel continue to die. As it is, with the U.S. still bogged down in Iraq and desperate to find a plan for disengaging and leaving Iraq to Iraqis, “Carrier” assumes the hue of Pentagon propaganda whereas the original intent of PBS probably was to depict the complex operations of what amounts to a small town floating on water.

What will be interesting to watch between May and November is whether scenes from the film make their way into television ads by groups that favor the election of Senator John McCain – a carrier pilot in the Vietnam War who became a prisoner of war when his plane was shot down.


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