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Georgian opposition slams Hollywood film about Ossetia war as propaganda

Russia Today
March 4, 2010

A new Hollywood film that features the 2008 war in South Ossetia has sparked controversy as to whether it is an unbiased portrayal of historical events or another attempt at political propaganda.

The filmmakers say that it is an impartial account of 2008 war in Ossetia. They claim there are no good guys, no bad guys. Their film, they say, is an attempt to show that all war is evil.

“I think that our main concern was to show that the war is a bad thing,” says Michael Flannigan, executive producer of the film, entitled “Georgia.” “You know, there are a lot of wars going on and this one kind of landed on us and we had an opportunity to make an entire war film. And that was really the primary goal.”

The film’s trailer, however, does not put across the same message. Moreover, it makes you wonder if the filmmakers had any clear understanding how the 5-day conflict between Russia and Georgia began. Instead of Georgian artillery falling on the Ossetian capital of Tskhinval, which was how the Ossetian war really began, the filmmakers opt to show a peaceful Georgian wedding in Gori torn apart by shelling.

And that’s just one of the many discrepancies in the film, critics say.

Georgia’s political opposition, which has been mounting a struggle against the government of President Mikhail Saakashvili, believes it’s yet another attempt on behalf of the Georgian government to whitewash its actions during the 2008 conflict.

“The film is not made in Georgia’s interest, but in the interest of President Saakashvili. It’s too bad such blatant propaganda is also sponsored from the state budget,” says Eka Besellia, an opposition member.

It seems that President Saakashvili, who is known for using the international media to sell his agenda, has this time wheeled out the heavy artillery in an effort to influence cinema audiences worldwide.

“This is nothing new,” says Leonid Radzikhovsky, political analyst. “Films have always been used to skew the view of historical events, no one will remember the conflict between South Ossetia and Georgia as it really was, but will judge it based on Hollywood film.”

The movie, which cost $32 million to create, carries all of trappings of a regular war flick.

But while it’s clear that Hollywood filmmakers know how to craft a convincing picture, they seem to have missed a major point. War is not just fantastic explosions and foreign journalists riding off into the sunset. War is primarily death and destruction. And there is no pretty way to show that.

But sometimes conflicts, like movies, serve as nothing more than political propaganda to advance other causes.

As questions are being raised over how the film industry is portraying the past conflict in the Caucasus, the media’s news industry is facing a different sort of challenge.

Increasingly, people are turning to the Internet, as opposed to television, to get their news information. And while there are those who welcome the trend, others point out its drawbacks.

According to one critic, Danny Schecter, we are “in an age of media grazing”.

“The problem is that often people are going to shorten and shorten news bits,” Schecter told RT. “People are just looking for a little more source of information about things they already know.”

Schecter says this is a problem because it is news industries job to provide information the public is not aware of.

“That sort of defeats the whole aim of the news industry because partly we are here to tell people stuff that they don’t know about,” he says.

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