It’s received favorable media attention and early reviews for quite some time—and we carried a story and trailer here long ago—and now the Tillman Story is finally arriving in theaters Friday. The Pat Tillman family has done Larry King this week and you may have already read about its shocking and honest revelations, and treatment of Gen. Stanley McChrystal and others.
The first reviews are in, almost all favorable, including one from Stephen Holden, just posted by the New York Times before publication in print on Friday. It calls it a "sorrowful, devastating documentary…clearsighted, emotionally steady," and it "persuasively" portrays Tillman’s family "as finer, more morally sturdy people than the cynical chain of command that lied to them and used their son as a propaganda tool."
Kenneth Turan of the LA Times open his review: "The Tillman Story is a story that won’t go away, won’t leave you alone, won’t let you feel at ease. Intensely dramatic, filled with elevated heroism, crass self-interest and blatant stupidity, it’s a paradigmatic narrative of our tendentious, turbulent times." And another veteran reviewer, Richard Corliss, in TIME magazine: "Meticulous in its amassing of interviews, news footage and Army documents, The Tillman Story plays like a mystery of epic proportions and awful implications."
Now here’s a lengthy and excellent Q&A with director Amir Bar-Lev just up at the Tribeca Film Festival site. Here’s an excerpt and a new trailer below. Also see my article from 2005 shortly after the full story started to break.
Tribeca: What was the biggest challenge in making this film? Were there roadblocks from the military?
Amir Bar-Lev: There’s really nothing in the film that another journalist couldn’t have reported on. And it was shocking to us to see—I mean, there is some investigative journalist involved in what we did, but not much—we couldn’t believe that it hadn’t been reported on! I’m not a big media critic or anything, but it does speak to how thin hard journalists are spread these days….
As far as the military putting up roadblocks, they really didn’t; they didn’t feel like we were a threat to them. They didn’t help us at all, but they didn’t hinder us. I think that’s because they don’t operate the way the films depict them operating—like putting a bullet in my mailbox or saying, “You better not go down that road…” That’s another case of people mistaking movies for reality.
In actuality, they have a team of very good publicists that makes sure that their spin gets disseminated through the mainstream press, and they are wildly successful at it. And they think that a small documentary isn’t going to have an impact on public sentiment.
The scene in the Congressional hearing where those generals basically say the equivalent of, “The dog ate my homework”—that worked. That was how it was reported. The reporting that night was, “Generals apologize to Tillmans for errors in bungling the Tillman case…” It takes a wide berth around the fact that they’ve never admitted to anything deliberate, even to this moment.
Tribeca: What do you want audiences to take away from the film? What do you want to happen?
Amir Bar-Lev: The story is not over. Nobody has really been held accountable. The guys who actually shot at Pat were given the same punishment as if they had forgotten to clean their weapons. Personally, though, my ire is directed to the people who continue to cover it up to this day.