Josh Brolin introduced a special screening of The Tillman Story at MoMA last week. The documentary's "voice," the Oscar-winning actor explained that he took on this project as narrator after seeing a bit of footage: "I wanted the Tillman family to adopt me," he said clearly moved by their dedication to their famous son's legacy.
By the time director Amir Bar-Lev and producer John Battsek were chosen to make this film among many filmmakers who approached the family, everyone knew the story of Pat Tillman, the charismatic football star with superhero good looks who put aside a multi-million dollar contract in 2002 to enlist in the U. S. army to fight the war against the terrorists who attacked our country. Killed in his second tour of duty, in Afghanistan in 2004, Tillman became a poster boy for a Hollywood scenario of heroism, of death by Taliban ambush; he also became our military's worst nightmare as his family, led by his remarkable mother, continued to press for further details, demanding the truth about Tillman's death.
The film is a riveting quest for this truth, and it is also heartbreaking, in that whatever emotions we harbor about this war, the injustice done to this family speaks in larger ways to the culture of cover-ups that passes for patriotism in post-9/11 America.
At center is Mary Tillman, like any grieving mom, but who, in memory of her son, won't let the matter go; in 2008 she published, Boots on the Ground by Dusk: Searching for Answers in the Death of Pat Tillman. The film crew began with perhaps the most damning scene: At a Congressional hearing, top military officials are seen to be dumb and dumber around this family's aching questions about what the military knew, when they found out, who sanctioned the cover-up, leading finally to Rumsfeld, and probably beyond. At the end of this scene, these men glad hand one another in the highest court as accountability slides off them. The betrayal is devastating.
After the screening, hosted by The Weinstein Company, A&E Indie Films, and Michael's the audience including Brolin and the filmmakers, Army Ranger Specialist Russell Baer, Jane Fonda, Kerry Washington, Dan Abrams, documentarians Ellen Kuras, Robert Richter, and many others filed out to Michael's for cocktails, the question on everyone's lips: What really happened? The simple answer is, a bunch of our guys who were amped up to engage in a conflict, just kept shooting at Tillman's position. This wasting of life is called by the ironic term "friendly fire," or the more Biblical, familial "fratricide." Either way, the shooter is known, but has not been held accountable.
In other words, the question remains unanswered, in the official sense, of course
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