Winter Soldier/ This is where we take our stand


Club, IFI, Dublin

Depending on what you make of Zero Dark Thirty, you could view the Irish Film Institute’s decision to programme two linked documentaries on alleged outrages by the US military as either a counterblast to Kathryn Bigelow’s alleged sabre-rattling or as confirmation of her film’s shocking revelations concerning state-approved torture.

Originally released in 1972, Winter Soldier, which screens at the IFI in two weeks, is a striking, dispassionate record of investigations into atrocities committed during the Vietnam War. Featuring a cameo from an aquiline, articulate John Kerry, the picture, largely shot in black and white, listens to an array of veterans – all shock sideburns and wild hair – as they talk us through the killing of children, the dehumanisation of young recruits and the degradation of local culture.

Calling up reminders of dry-eyed contemporaneous documentarians such as Fred Wiseman, Winter Soldier is an archetypal artefact of its time: angry, rough-hewn, radical. Credited to a collective that included the great Barbara Kopple, the film has long been hard to locate and it is good to see Stoney Road Films, an Irish company, making it available on DVD and to cinemagoers.

This week the IFI screens This Is Where We Take Our Stand, which takes its inspiration from Winter Soldier. Following a group of US soldiers, veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, who set out to tell the truth about various outrages, the film blazes with righteous anger and bitter disappointment. Formally it’s not in the same league as its predecessor, but the participants’ stories are no less worthy of attention.

*This Is Where We Take Our Stand screens Friday to Sunday. Winter Soldier opens on February 1st.

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