Recent Hollywood movies involving the Iraq war have received positive reviews but relatively small audiences. Scenes from several of these movies (“Stop Loss,” “The Valley of Elah,” “Redacted,” “Lions For Lambs”) are shown in the first 2 minutes of this NewsHour video report and create a launching pad for a discussion about why this type of movie may or may not be popular with your students.
In the 10 minute interview following the movie scenes, Kimberly Peirce, writer and director of Stop-Loss, describes how witnessing 9/11 and the ensuing wars inspired her to portray ordinary real lives of soldiers and her success in engaging live audiences after screenings. Peirce is joined by NY Times film commentator Stephen Farber in exploring broader issues affecting the commercial success of the Iraq war films.
You might start class discussion with the questions such as these: Does anyone have a connection to a soldier who has served multiple tours in the war? What is stop-loss?
Is America war-weary? History teachers might relate stop-loss to George Washington’s troop strength dilemma during the Revolutionary War. John Kerry in his 2004 campaign called stop-loss the “back-door draft.” What did he mean? What do your students think about a draft?
A recent related NewsHour video report also addresses troop strength issues in Iraq. After the introduction about President Bush’s recent announcement shortening tours of duty, two guests take dramatically different positions.
Wikipedia backgrounder on official stop-loss policy
It’s always important when introducing Wikipedia as a source that your students know how it is created and understand that they can’t take the information found there at face value. This NewsHour Extra Wikipedia Report explores some of the issues surrounding Wikipedia as a research source.
Wikipedia links to individual movies
The Valley of Elah
Lions For Lambs
NewsHour Report: Most Iraq War movies enjoy little box office success
NewsHour In-Depth Iraq Coverage