Two media items to watch for

1. On ABC1 Thursday night: the Documentary Baker Boys: Inside the Surge (2010)

I believe it premiered in the USA in February 2011.

In 2008, veteran war cameraman, Jon Steele, picked up his camera and headed back to the ‘big sandbox’.

He met up with Baker Company of the 1/15 United States infantry and made a deal with them. He’d be willing to die with them, if they’d be willing to talk to him.

In February of 2008 Baker Company’s tour is extended by another three months so they can build a combat outpost in a notoriously dangerous Al Qaeda stronghold.

This is a new kind of fight, though — a counter insurgency, in which the objective is to create peace rather than wage war. It is a mission that doesn’t sit well among the rank and file soldiers of Baker Company, as they must reinvent their relationship with the local Sunni villagers against whom they’ve been fighting.

Approximately 90 days from going home Baker Company is given the order that they will be assuming a new position and given an ‘opportunity’ to move south and start a new combat outpost. The challenges include moving out of an area that they’ve worked in for eight-to-ten months to move to an entirely different area which is not as secure as the one that they’ve been living in.

In this area, 15 miles south of Baghdad, the Baker Boys were the spearhead of the counter-insurgency surge. Their mission was to move deep into the badlands, build a combat outpost and turn the local Iraqis from enemy to friend. With orders like that, and only 90 days from going home, no one in Baker Company was taking a minute of this mission for granted.

The fact Kanani Fong likes it is commendation enough for me, but Kanani is far from alone in this.

imagesOutstanding film, very even-handed

8 February 2011 | by Julie Bouchard (GA) – 

Was privileged to be at the premier of this film at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center in Columbus, GA. I admit, I was apprehensive going into the film, which was shown on consecutive nights. I was concerned that it was going to be gory and be politically slanted one way or the other. I was pleasantly surprised on both fronts.

The film is in four episodes, and features a journalist who embedded with an element of the 3rd Infantry division during the Surge in Iraq. He joined the soldiers 90 days from the end of their deployment, as they were being redeployed on their Surge mission. Instead of getting his story and going home, the journo stayed with the soldiers for all 90 days, until they came home. He also checked in with them stateside.

The format is very open; the journo asked questions and let the soldiers answer. Parts were funny, parts were sad. All were thought-provoking.

In a Q&A after the film with the journalist and several of the soldiers in the film, the point was made (by both sides) that the Army didn’t censor the film at all. Another point the journalist made: he is an ex-pat who has worked in Europe for many years. The news culture he comes from sends him out to film, and then the story is written from what the pictures show. This film is a product of that style. He says that in the U.S., we tend to write the story and get supporting pictures.

See the Facebook page and a video of the director talking about the doco.

Here to mark the new month:

June-2011-cover

THE NATION REVIEWED

“Dick Smith depicts a nation already bursting at the seams – a place where ‘battery kids’ are raised in high-rises while we spend good money on free-range eggs: ‘We value the chickens more than our children.’ Comparing population growth to a ‘plague of locusts’, Smith forecasts ‘sheer misery and starvation’.” 

In the first Monthly Comment, Guy Pearse assesses the impending population crisis as foretold by Australia’s retail entrepreneur Dick Smith. Pearse refutes the research Smith uses as the basis of his campaign to promote a ‘small Australia’ – including encouraging two-kid families and a halving of migration.

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In a second Comment, Sally Neighbour discusses the increasingly desperate plight of Hazara asylum seekers. An ethnic group reviled by the Pashtun Taliban in Afghanistan, the Hazara represent the majority of asylum seekers in Australia’s detention centres. Neighbour questions the recent political to-ing and fro-ing in asylum seeker policy, and outlines the dangers the Hazara face if sent back to their homeland.

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Plus, in “Expert Appetite”, Robert Dessaix celebrates the exquisite pleasure of connoisseurship; in “Where the Heart Is”, Helen Garner shares the intimate experience of caring for her dying sister at home; and in “The Silk Road”, Adrienne Ferreira spins the little known history of silk farming in Australia.

THE MONTHLY ESSAYS

“China’s twelfth five-year plan sketches a pathway from emerging power to full superpower status. This epoch-making transition has global consequences, especially for the Asia–Pacific region. Arguably, no other document will have a more profound impact on Australia’s prosperity, security and climate.”

In “Bitter Fruits”, Andrew Charlton surveys the challenges facing China. Despite massive growth and increasing prosperity, the authoritarian government is now confronted with internal corruption, the aftershocks of the global financial crisis, and simmering social inequality and unrest. In this clear-sighted article, Charlton outlines China’s plans for the future and what these mean for Australia.

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And more! That Sally Neighbour essay will be my first read. I am shamelessly promoting the mag because it is simply the best of its kind in Australia. I have no vested interest in it.