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Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Power of Nightmares

This post consists of two e-mails I sent to friends about this amazing movie...one written right after I saw it and another a year later when I found a better way for people to view it on line. It is also readily available on Google Video.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1002626006461047517&q=power+of+nightmares

[April 2005]
Last night I saw one of the most remarkable films I have ever experienced. The effect was mind-expanding, and I believe many others in the large audience [at Pace University, as part of the Tribeca Film Festival] felt the same way.

Entitled The Power of Nightmares, it's actually a 3-part BBC TV series, first shown in the UK right before the US presidential election last fall. From the big crowd and the strong reactions [sustained applause and cheering at the end, after 3 hours of rapt attention], I assume it will get a theatrical release here and then be shown on television and released on DVD.

[see end of post for a site where it can be viewed/downloaded]


It's a deliberately, audaciously provocative piece, with a great deal of cheeky smart-alecky humor, and it will be very controversial in the US. Some will call it an outrageous pack of lies. Even those like myself who are blown away by the film's brilliance may question some of its methods and assertions. It is almost certainly guilty of over-simplification and overstatement and the occasional cheap shot.


But the powerful central idea, explosively well presented, is what is important about the film. It says that politicians maintain their power by creating myths that strike fear in the general population. The scarier the myth, the greater the power of those who promulgate it. The cases in point are American neoconservatives and radical Islamists. The film finds remarkable similarities in their origins, their temporary declines, and their resurgence after 9/11. Among its more startling assertions: there is not and never was such an organization as Al Qaeda.

[For an excellent - and not uncritical - analysis of the film, see Peter Bergen in The Nation, last summer:
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20050620/bergen ]

There have already been strong reactions to the original telecast:

Awestruck praise from the left [perhaps a little too unquestioning about the film's content]--

http://www.commondreams.org/views04/1207-26.htm

And dumbfounded contempt from the right [though this is quite well written]--

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/davis200410211043.asp

At any rate, try to see this at your earliest opportunity. I dearly want to discuss it with friends who have experienced it.

[written 4/17/06]

I still think this is one of the best [and most entertaining - often disconcertingly funny] nonfiction films I have ever seen. Buying tickets recently for this year's Tribeca Film Festival, where I attended an extraordinary, packed screening last April, stirred up memories and made me want to again urge my friends to see it. So here is a web page where you can watch it [there's also a description, in case you don't remember my previous ravings]:

http://www.archive.org/details/ThePowerOfNightmares


This set of links is more recent than those I sent several months back. You can either download the whole thing [rather large] or watch it as a stream.

Since it consists of three one-hour parts, this is hardly an acceptable substitute for seeing the film in a theater or on DVD [or TV], but none of those methods are likely in the near future. If you have a fast connection, an alert frame of mind, and a little time, please take a look. By the end of the first 20 minutes, you may find yourself as hooked as I was/am.

It uses lots of archival footage and music, and the rights issues may keep it from ever being released on DVD.

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