Chapter 78 President Greg Horton’s review:
At the invitation of Chapter Member Thomas Kasza, I attended the screening of the National Geographic movie “Retrograde.” This was hosted by The Occidental College Department of Critical Theory and Social Justice and the NMRG Rescue Project. Never has my soul been rocked like it was at the screening of this movie. This was in spite the fact that I knew what had happened in Afghanistan when the United States so abruptly departed.
Matthew Heineman, the director of this sure to be award-winning documentary, did a masterful job in the making of this film. The documentary tells the story of the last months of the 20-year war in Afghanistan through the intimate relationship between American Green Berets and the Afghan officers they trained. Ho hum, another dry, history documentary. But then Executive Producer Baktash Ahadi piqued the audience’s interest by describing a unique method of filming called Cinéma Vérité. In this method, the cameramen have no verbal interaction with the subjects, they just film non-stop. In fact, for this project, none of the camera crew spoke the native languages Pashto or Dari. They just followed them and filmed. Even when they were working around the Americans, they had no verbal interaction. What you see is what you get.
Early on, General Sami Sadat is introduced and developed as the main character of the film. As I followed the movie, it was so interesting watching the change in him as the story progressed. General Sadat is a well respected officer and as he took over command of the Armed Forces of Afghanistan, you could see the commanding presence and confidence in the man. But as events unfold and the military suffers body blow after body blow, you can sense the impending doom and watch the marked change in the General. The final part where the United States pulls out and the country descends into the hell of a Taliban takeover is gut wrenching.
When I went to the premier, I was in the process of reading Operation Pineapple Express by Scott Mann. I was reading the portion where Nezam is trying to make it to the airport to get rescued by a team, where he is put on a flight, and, finally, has reached the outskirts of the rendezvous spot. The author describes perfectly the chaos of the thousands of Afghans trying to escape the impending Taliban takeover. But nothing written prepares you for the actual video clips of the horrific panic and desperate acts of a frightened population. Nothing. Frightened parents clinging to their children with a look of total desperation and their cries for help, only to be pushed back and in some cases beaten. The videos were heartbreaking and gut wrenching.
And while this was going on, they would flash back to scenes of the General and his troops as they are preparing for, and fighting. The sense of desperation and fear was palpable, and I began to empathize with them and imagine me and my family in that situation. I cannot help but remember the words of Henry Kissinger:
“To be an enemy of the US is dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal!”
I was glad to see that General Sadat was able to flee with some of his troops and his family to the UK, but I think that this documentary is an indictment on the way the withdrawal was handled. I am sure the series of decisions and actions taken will be debated about for years by pundits and politicians alike. Could of, would of, should of. But the bottom line nothing was done.
I personally would like to thank all the people involved in making this documentary and would encourage everyone to watch it. If you are interested watch the trailer. In my opinion, I repeat, this is a must see film.