Home Movie GenresPolitical Films Iraq War Documentary Gets U.S. Distribution Despite Hollywood Studio Turndown

Iraq War Documentary Gets U.S. Distribution Despite Hollywood Studio Turndown

Iraq War documentary Soldiers Pay. Claiming federal election law concerns, Warner Bros. has refused to release co-director David O. Russell’s short film in the domestic market, much like the Walt Disney Studios refused to release Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 earlier this year.
  • Cinema Libre Studio will be releasing two Iraq War documentaries on American screens: Uncovered: The War on Iraq and Soldiers Pay, both featuring criticism of the U.S.-led invasion of that West Asian country.
  • Warner Bros. had turned down distributing Soldiers Pay in the domestic market, claiming that its release during a presidential election year would have violated U.S. federal election laws.

Iraq War documentary gets U.S. release despite Warners Bros.’ refusal to launch it during a presidential election year

Cinema Libre Studio will be handling the domestic release of Robert Greenwald’s Iraq War documentary feature Uncovered: The War on Iraq, alongside that of the Iraq War-themed documentary short Soldiers Pay, co-directed by Tricia Regan, Juan Carlos Zaldívar, and David O. Russell. Both films offer negative views of last year’s U.S.-led invasion of the Saddam Hussein-ruled West Asian country.

David O. Russell – the screenwriter-director of the generally well-received low-budget comedies Spanking the Monkey (1994) and Flirting with Disaster (1996), in addition to the post-Persian Gulf War comedy-drama Three Kings (1999) – had wanted Warner Bros. to distribute Soldiers Pay in conjunction with the studio’s planned 2004 rerelease of Three Kings, a box office disappointment (in relation to its price tag) starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube.[1]

But Warners, like the Walt Disney Studios earlier this year, balked at the idea of releasing an anti-Iraq War movie during a U.S. presidential election year. In fact, whether accurately or not, a Warner Bros. representative labeled Soldiers Pay a “personal political statement” that, if distributed by the studio, might violate federal election laws.

Warners adamant: Iraq War film shouldn’t be ‘polemic about war’

Besides, Warners has also decided that Russell’s Iraq War documentary will not be found on the Three Kings Special Edition DVD, for the studio doesn’t want its home video release (of what happens to be a war movie) to become “a polemic about war.”

Enter Cinema Libre, which, U.S. federal election laws or no, will be launching Soldiers Pay in select American cities (it has already been screened in the Bay Area) as the shorter end of a double bill also featuring Uncovered: The War on Iraq.

As found in a Cinema Libre press release, the Iraq War documentary double bill “make a powerful duo,” as Robert Greenwald’s feature and its accompanying 35-minute short complement one another “with strong arguments about the consequences of war and the lies that were told to get there.”

Initially, Soldiers Pay was to focus on the stories of the Iraqi extras who worked on Three Kings. As filming progressed, its scope was expanded to show the effects of the (2003–2004) Iraq War on U.S. soldiers, Iraqi refugees, and the local citizenry.

Uncovered: The War on Iraq: White House and its long-dreamed-of Iraq War scrutinized in Robert Greenwald’s documentary. Anachronistically, Greenwald is also the director of the 1980 Olivia Newton-John-Gene Kelly musical Xanadu.

Uncovered: The War on Iraq: Lies, blood & U.S. taxpayer dollars

Uncovered: The War on Iraq is divided into seven segments, including:

  • “Terrorism,” about the George W. Bush administration’s false claims of a connection between Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11 terror attacks mastermind Osama bin Laden.
  • “Sixteen Words,” about how Bush’s people lied about Iraq being in possession of weapons-grade uranium imported from Niger – a claim proven false following a leak by U.S. diplomat Joseph C. Wilson, which led the Bush administration to retaliate by outing Wilson’s wife, CIA covert agent Valerie Plame.
  • “The Cost of War,” which tallies the dollar amount U.S. taxpayers have thus far spent to foot costs associated with the Iraq War, including extravagant – and potentially illegal – contracts with private companies close to the Bush administration.

Iraq War documentary double bill ‘serves the audience’

“I am excited to participate in this double bill that serves the audience,” says Greenwald, whose previous effort, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, took to task Fox News’ “fair and balanced” mix of reporting and far-right propaganda.

The filmmaker adds that both Iraq War movies “take you inside the government[,] speaking out about distortion of information, and David Russell’s powerful personal story [explains] the toll war takes on those who have to fight it.”

The Cinema Libre DVD containing the Iraq War documentary double bill is due in stores in October 2004.

David O. Russell’s Iraq War-unrelated comedy I Heart Huckabees also opens in October in North America. In the name cast: Naomi Watts, Isabelle Huppert, Jude Law, Lily Tomlin, Jason Schwartzman, Mark Wahlberg, and two-time Best Actor Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman (Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979; Rain Man, 1988), in addition to cameos by veterans Tippi Hedren (The Birds) and Talia Shire (Rocky).


‘Iraq War Documentary Gets U.S. Distribution’ notes

Three Kings adaptation + budget

[1] David O. Russell adapted Three Kings from a screenplay by John Ridley, who received “story” credit.

Three Kings took in $107.7 million worldwide. Its reported budget – not including marketing and distribution expenses – was around $50 million.


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Images of the Iraq war documentary Soldiers Pay and the Uncovered: The War on Iraq poster: Cinema Libre Studio.

“Iraq War Documentary Gets U.S. Distribution Despite Hollywood Studio Turndown” last updated in December 2019.

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