By Ernesto Aguilar
Political Media Review
Given a durable track record when it comes to feature-length films, it is indeed risky to step into the news clip reportage comprising the DVD collection Big Noise Dispatches, Volumes 1-4. Unwritten in such choices is a potential for perceptions to shift and the existing body of work to be somehow diminished. After all, the closest comparison to Dispatches could be the autonomous Independent Media Center’s Indymedia Newsreal shorts; such affairs have been more simple than anything Big Noise has done, including these four volumes. Managing to make this series work is tricky.
True to Big Noise style, the visuals in Dispatches
are dizzying. Volume 1 opens with some of the most terrifying film work
in relaying the 2006 bombing of Lebanon by Israel in its quest to crush
Hezbollah. The enormity of the destruction in the opening sequence is
breathtaking. Subsequent volumes deliver on the media team’s penchant
for hard-hitting camera work. From firsthand narratives from Jena,
Louisiana, to investigative journalist Greg Palast’s signature
correspondence, featured in various segments throughout the series, Dispatches wrests
from corporate media the idea that only the commercial press can do
genuinely entertaining, heart stopping reporting. Big-budget television,
it is true, cannot compete with passion and commitment.
Dispatches is at its best in profiling the movements that have no representation in the corporate or independent media. Film from Iraq, Ecuador and other far-flung areas is without peer. Big Noise’s ongoing imperative to bring viewers the on-the-ground struggles at their most realistic is daringly conferred. Courage against a backdrop of repression, victimhood blossoming into indignation, and intransigence growing into bottom-up insurgency are grist for great chronicles. You find truly moving efforts on Dispatches.
Though often dated from the periods of release, many segments are riveting. The Winter Soldier hearings, for the uninitiated especially, are telling; at the 2008 gatherings, Iraq veterans told their stories of abuses by the U.S. military and their participation in same. Even if you have followed the coverage by reporters like Dahr Jamail and Aaron Glantz, nothing can really prepare you for seeing the anguished faces of ex-soldiers recounting and recanting their misdeeds in the Mideast. A few speak in no uncertain terms about the killings they committed and their regret to the families whose loved ones they murdered. Such words are singularly the best reason to watch Dispatches. At a time when journalism has lost its socioeconomic diversity and class bias thus pervades reporting, Big Noise is willing to go there in ways I. F. Stone must be smiling down on.