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War and philosophy at "Get Real 5"

Posted at 10:15 AM on November 4, 2005 by Euan Kerr

A couple of movies worth considering at "Get Real" in Minneapolis this weekend.

Saying "Yes" to "Sir!No Sir!"

They say that it's the winners who get to write the history books, but in the multitude of conflicts over the VietNam war there's a lot of wiggle room as to who won what. David Zieger's documentary about the little known GI peace movement in the US and in VietNam attempts to clarify some of what happened, while also clearing up some misconceptions. Using a broad mix of archive film and contemporary interviews gathered over five years, he chronicles how growing anti-war awareness among people serving in the military led to protests, court martials and half a million reported AWOLs.

One of the great strengths of the film is how it shows the impact of film on men and women. We hear from people involved in the boycott of a jewelry which pressed soldiers to buy rings for their mothers to leave as a keepsake in case they didn't come back. We also hear from Jane Fonda about the work she did with the anti-war FTA show, which was meant as a counter to Bob Hope's USO pageants. Fonda's involvement in the anti-war movement has, for many people, been boiled down to the iconic photograph of her sitting on a Viet Cong anti-aircraft gun, and so it is refreshingly intriguing to hear her talk about the larger issues at play.

Perhaps most intriguing is the investigation into the much told stories of the VietNam vets being spat at at airports on their return from combat. The filmmakers interviewed a researcher who looked into the subject at length, and found no conclusive evidence it ever happened. Again an iconic moment seems to almost evaporate, and perhaps we get closer to the complexities of what really happened three decades ago.

The Charm of a Monster

I'll freely admit I would never have gone to "Zizek" had it not been for a friend who dragged me along to a screening in Toronto. The idea of a documentary about a Slovenian Marxist Lacanist philosopher wittering on about the nature of the universe does not seem that attractive. In reality it's both fascinating and entertaining.

"In These Times" magazine described Slavoj Zizek as "an academic rock star." He is just at home writing pop culture critiques as dense philosophical tracts. He's written on Hitchcock, opera, a Marxist defense of Christianity, and essays on the meaning of 9/11. While he loves wresting with the big questions of the world he refuses to take himself seriously. At one point he points to a picture of himself in the newspaper and asks what kind of parent would let a daughter go to the cinema with someone who looks like him.

A self-described monster, Zizek is a bear of a man, with wild hair and a beard, who sweats a lot. His lateral lisp makes his machine gun delivery of Slovenian-accented English even more of a challenge, but it's hard to take your eyes off him.

Part of his charm is his ability to articulate a world-view very different from just about anything we usually hear in our daily life. Zizek combines Marxist philosophy with psychoanalysis, and a host of other theories including quantum physics to present compelling arguments for why the world is the way it is.

In Astra Taylor's delightful directorial debut we see him speaking to rapt audiences around the world, but also get to tour his apartment in Ljubljana, where he decided it makes more sense to keep his socks and underwear in the kitchen. His analysis of a town his son built from wooden bricks and lego is worth the price of admission in itself.

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