Last month on Take AIM, I interviewed Michael Pack about his new documentary, “The Last 600 Meters,” which will air on PBS. It looks at the two biggest battles of the Iraq War through a remarkable range of video footage, and gets up close and personal with a number of the Marines and other service members who were engaged in the battles. We also discussed the state of documentary filmmaking, of public television, and the degree to which the Obama administration is politicizing the National Endowments. The discussion included AIM’s documentary, “Television’s Vietnam,” which aired on PBS in the 1980’s in response to a series PBS had produced on the Vietnam War.
Here are a few quotes from the interview:
“I still think, thinking back on the AIM critique of the PBS Vietnam series—that even without the Fairness Doctrine, public broadcasting has an obligation to have other points of view because all these entities get federal funds, and as recipients of federal funds, they’re really obliged to reflect, to some extent, the opinions of the American people, or the sort of political spectrum that exists in America. And that is in the law that created CPB in the first place.”
“PBS itself likes to say that it would take documentaries as long as the quality were high—and it is really true, on their side of the question, that many, many right-of-center documentaries are not of the quality of left-of-center documentaries, in part because the funding and support of left-of-center documentaries is so much vastly bigger.”
“I was also on the Council for National Endowment for the Humanities, and I do think that in the case of the endowments, especially, things are getting more politicized under Obama than they were under Bush. The people who run them are taking stands that were more political than their Republican predecessors would be comfortable with. And one of the things I’m anxious to do is start an organization that, from a right-of-center perspective, would look at those institutions, and make sure that when they do something like that, enough criticism is out there—kind of keeping them in line.”
“…the NEA had a staffer, who has since been let go, who had a conference call where he appealed to artists to help extend the Obama agenda in other areas, like health care reform. And it had never been—the NEA is supposed to be apolitical. You’re not supposed to ask artists to serve an administration’s agenda, worthy or not worthy…”
[On his documentary, “The Last 600 Meters”]
“These battles—the first battle of Fallujah, then Najaf, and the second battle of Fallujah, which took place over a nine-month period in 2004, were the biggest battles of the war, and the most kinetic, intense battles of the war. They were the Iraq War’s equivalent of D-Day, or Iwo Jima, or Gettysburg.”
“They were just great young men, and America is lucky to have them, to such a point that my oldest son, who is going to be a senior in high school, is interested in joining the Marine Corps, even though we had no Marine experience in my family, ever. These young men were just very—their stories were compelling, and they were just great. I think the thing that moves me is these people that are in the film.”
You can listen to the entire interview, or read an edited transcript here.