The Longest War Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

The Longest War is directed by Emmy-winning director, Greg Barker and Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon. The documentary was televised right after the series finale of Homeland on Sunday night and unpacks the CIA’s long and morally complicated history in Afghanistan. This fight had been going on for two decades and the timeline that was shown, highlighting each President discussing the issue put the longevity of this war into perspective. The question that often arises is “Why were they there?” and this documentary definitely explores that jam packed question.

The documentary goes into the depths of the battle in Afghanistan by highlighting key moments, which made an impact for the trajectory of this war. It began with the United States stepping in, to get the Soviets out of the country by supplying them with weapons to fight extremist groups. After the Soviets left, Afghanistan had control of weapons and the country faced a Civil War with the Taliban emerging. Shortly after, Al Qaeda made its presence known and Osama Bin Laden was their leader.

During all this, President Bill Clinton was the Leader of the Free World and did nothing to stop this. It seemed as it was a domino effect because people question would question the aftermath of one decision. What if President Clinton went after him? Would things have been different? Would 9/11 have even happened? Would the U.S. Troops be there without cause or reason after 2 decades? These are the questions that are addressed in The Longest War and I was so invested in knowing the truth.

What I think was incredibly beneficial of the storytelling in this documentary was the detailed interviews on both sides of the fence. It was such a balanced discussion between CIA operatives, U.S Troops, Journalists and the Afghan people that it covered all the bases. At times, the editing allowed for two opposing answers, to counter each other and present an argument, without having those people face each other in the same room. The integration of stock footage was done seamlessly and showed the destruction of Afghanistan, by extremist groups and the United States.

Barker also highlighted the importance of Journalists and their bravery when reporting in warzones. Anyone who old the truth was at risk. The television station and media outlets that started production in Afghanistan after the US stepped in, were reporting on the Taliban and ended up losing thirteen people from their team to violence. The truth is, and always will be, a powerful tool and it’s up to Journalists and the media to cover history in the most honest way because their words will be remembered.

Afghanistan is a very young country and they are the future. They’ve only known what a war torn country looks like and have never been able to know peace with their own people. The battle in Afghanistan will forever be the most confusing, life altering and questionable battle that the United States had to endure. It doesn’t help that the CIA took matters into their own hands and made some very violent decisions when interrogating people in the extremist groups. What started out as a peace mission to redevelop Afghanistan, ended up being one of the most scarring events in U.S. history, which changed the way the United States was viewed by the world forever.

 

Hunters TV: History Repeats Itself


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Hunters on Amazon Prime is a drama web television series that will leave you speechless. Executive Producer Jordan Peele and series creator David Weil take the audience on a brutal journey involving Nazi Hunters. Everything about this show is relevant to current day politics, while still educating people on the hardships Jewish people went through in World War 2/Post WW2.

Hunters takes place in New York, circa 1977. The Nazi Hunters that have assembled under Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino), discover that there are war criminals conspiring to create a Fourth Reich in the U.S. The series takes the tragic history of the Holocaust and expands on the stories, in order for the young generation to grasp what it meant to be a Nazi. David Weil examines the lives of the Jewish people, while still maintaining a balance in developing Nazi characters and their sadistic backstories.

The premise is more than just hunting Nazi’s because the perspective is through a third generation, Jewish teenager named Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman). Jonah lost his mother at childbirth and was raised by his grandmother, Ruth Heidelbaum (Jeannie Berlin). Naturally, as any grandparent would, Ruth would tell Jonah all of her stories and what she went through during World War 2. The bond between a grandparent and a grandson/granddaughter is unbreakable and the relationship is pure, that connection can never be replaced.

Logan Lerman was absolutely incredible as Jonah Heidelbaum, he continued to get better and better in each episode and he had great chemistry with Al Pacino. Lerman has always flown under the radar and I was rather happy to see him knock it out of the park, after all this time. Lerman as Jonah Heidelbaum truly is the star of the show and brings a new generation to the forefront to fight against their oppressor. After watching Hunters TV, Lerman is the only one who could have given such a powerful, emphatic and compassionate performance as Jonah.

David Weil listened to his own grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, tell her stories as a young child. In an article for Entertainment Weekly, Weil had said

“It was such a strange and jarring thing to hear as a kid, I saw those stories as comic book stories, stories of grand good versus grand evil, and that became the lens through which I saw the Holocaust.” – David Weil, Story Creator, Hunters TV

Weil incorporated pop culture in the retelling of what he considered a heroic act, based on the stories of Jonah’s grandmother in the Holocaust. There were plenty of comic book references and the basic theme of good vs. evil was evident throughout. The Jewish people who were oppressed and struggled to make their way out of the concentration camps, are true heroes and showed such bravery with whatever act of rebellion they took against the Nazi regime.

Hunters brings everyone together to fight one common enemy and in the late 70s and the Nazi’s were apparently hiding in plain sight. Weil addressed that Nazi’s have reinvented their way of life and have moved out west. They have changed their approach and have added more targets. We also see the diversity in the cast, when they come together in Meyer Offerman’s basement. The cast of characters including, Lonny Flash (Josh Radnor), Sister Harriet (Kate Mulvany), Roxy Jones (Tiffany Boone), Joe Mizushima (Louis Ozawa), Murray Markowitz (Saul Rubinek) and Mindy Markowitz (Carol Kane) all have their own backstories and different tactics when killing Nazi’s. They all have such big roles to play and the writing for each of them was perfect.

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(left) Tiffany Boone, Louis Ozawa, Al Pacino, Logan Lerman, Josh Radnor, Saul Rubinek and Carol Kane

photo courtesy of Christopher Saunders/Amazon Studios 

They all have such distinct traits and stand out in their own way. Their backstories are fleshed out in each episode and tie together perfectly when hunting their next Nazi. I was rather impressed by Josh Radnor’s performance as Lonny Flash, his comedic timing was fantastic and his egotistical sarcasm made me love the character even more. Lonny Flash is one of my favourite characters, next to the dynamic duo of Mindy and Murray Markowitz, played by Saul Rubinek and Carol Kane. Their story was heartbreaking because they actually lived through the Holocaust, they worked so well together and you grow so attached to them as the show goes on. As they work together as a group, you’ll end up loving this unconventional clan.

I can’t stress enough how important Hunters TV is, especially in this current socio-political climate, where there is always a discussion of white supremacy because of how blatantly it is displayed. History definitely repeats itself and comes back in different forms. It has gotten to the point where these people are in a position of power and openly present their ideology to the people in their country. If it is out in the open right now, to the point where there HAVE been actual KKK rallies (without the hoods), are these people even hiding anymore? Even though the show takes place in the 70s, it shows the evolution of the Nazi mindset and how it can progress because of how it’s passed down to the next generation.

The show is multidimensional and addresses many sides of history in order to tie it all together against one group of people. Hunters TV is loosely based on the stories of World War 2 and definitely exaggerated in some instances. There were brutal, sadistic moments filmed at the concentration camps, that I truly believed could have happened. However, when these fictional moments happened in the show, Weil was under fire by the Auschwitz Memorial twitter for presenting these moments.

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People began to reply to the criticism claiming that any art form is allowed to alter history and create fictitious moments because it is creative expression. There are always more than two sides when interpreting any form of art but the criticism in the film or television medium, almost always raises questions of the necessity of these fictitious or exaggerated moments. David Weil then responded to the criticism with the following statement:

“Hunters, like a myriad of acclaimed films on the subject, does not always adhere to literal truth in its pursuit of capturing the representational truth of the Holocaust. My decision to fictionalize was made in awareness of this debate, and this show takes the point of view that symbolic representations provide individuals access to an emotional and symbolic reality that allows us to better understand the experiences of the Shoah and provide it with meaning that can address our urgent present.”

As I watched certain scenes unfold, like the chess match at the concentration camp, I was in shock. I felt a knot in my stomach and I truly couldn’t believe there were such sadistic people, during that period that would do such a thing. The human chess match was completely fabricated, it was fictitious but I truly believed that a traumatic thing like that could have happened, considering all the other horrifying things that happened during the Holocaust. Is it wrong of me to think that actually happened? Is it wrong that my heart genuinely broke for the Jewish community who had to suffer in such a disturbing way? It’s completely understandable that a scene like that was disturbing to watch and that it is damaging to the community but Weil was trying to make others understand that the treatment of Jewish people was just as brutal in different forms.

David Weil is right in saying that there should be more films about the Holocaust and these stories from Jewish people who suffered and overcame this nightmare. These stories aren’t just stories anymore, they’re also considered a blueprint because of the evolution of Nazi’s in the modern world. The script for each episode felt like you were watching a chess match, it was intricate, ballsy and had great execution. It is one of the most strategic shows I’ve seen in a very long time and the pieces come together effortlessly. The expertise of Hunters TV lies is the integration of history and the current political climate.

Hunters TV is currently on Amazon Prime and everyone needs to see this show. It will draw you in within the first five minutes and it will set the tone for the wild journey you will embark on with the Nazi Hunters. It’s a quick watch and each episode is better than the last. It is one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time and this is the first time I’ve ever wanted to write an article on a series because of how amazed I was with the show as a whole.