The War Tapes is a special kind of documentary: while journalists usually film and question their subjects, here the subjects themselves tape their daily life.

We follow 3 National Guards during their 15 month deployment in Iraq, between 2004 and 2005, when the insurgency was building up. We go with them on the roads, escorting miles and miles of trucks under the constant threats and regular attacks. We see how they cope with the horrors of everyday, the childish games they play in the middle of hell, the dead, the ambushes, the bombs, the mortar attacks, the IEDs, the VBIEDs, the cultural differences between locals and American forces and the mutual distrust on both sides.

We see the soldiers training Iraqi police, a round up of middle age men that probably joined the force because they had no alternatives. We visit the graveyard of vehicles hit by IEDs, a desolated and chilling sight. We see the insanity described by Col. Kurtz or Joker in Full Metal Jacket. We see the real face of war.

Overtime, the soldiers gradually lose faith in the media as they try to make sense of their mission. They feel disgusted that KBR and Halliburton run absolutely everything in the country, from the fast food chains in their base to the endless convoys of trucks, or the treatment of TCNs (Third Country Nationals), poor Egyptian and Pakistani driving trucks with absolutely no protection.

Finally, their tour comes to an end and they come back home and return to civilian life. But their hardship doesn't end here. On the contrary: a year of deployment in a war zone changed them and they now have to readapt themselves to a completely different life and their families also have to learn to live with a different person.

The War Tapes is powerful documentary because it show us the reality of the ground, a documentary about war made by soldiers themselves. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so here is the official website and trailer, as well as a TED talk by the director, Deborah Scranton.

About Carlito Riego

"Great perfection may appear imperfect, but its usefulness is inexhaustible. Great abundance may appear empty, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted. Great correctness may appear twisted, great skills appear crude, great eloquence appear awkward. Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat. Clear serenity governs the world." - Lao Zi