‘American Century’ Ignites Controversy

Vanessa Duffy

An evening with friends, wine, delicious snacks and a film wasn’t expected to turn into an offensive and controversial debate between the audience and the film director.

“The New American Century,” directed by Massimo Mazzucco, was screened on Sept. 23 at the Luna Playhouse in Glendale, leaving many unsatisfied.

The film frames the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center as an “inside job” by the United States government, backed by the Unoco petroleum company for profits.

The film revolves around conspiracies such as former President Bush’s attempted assassination, the planned demolition of the twin towers, and the neo-conservative group Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Mazzucco has clips of former CIA agents and government officials admitting to some of motives of the U.S. involvement in Iraq.

PNAC was established in 1997 as a non-profit, educational organization to promote American global leadership. According to the conspiracy, Mazzucco demonstrates that PNAC is a neo-conservative group that started during the Bush administration to ensure world domination. Its members were former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and several others within the Bush administration.

Mazzucco suggested more than one reason for the war in Iraq. One was to intimidate Russia, whose power was increasing; and the other, to steal oil for profits.

Another aspect of the film which has no relevant value is the portrayal of soldiers in Iraq who appear to act violent and trigger happy through video footage that Mazzucco picked up off the Internet. The footage showed troops excited about blowing up buildings and killing targets, almost like it was a video game.

The director pulled emotion into the film by resurfacing the events at the Abu Ghraib prison. The clip displayed British and American troops torturing Iraqis by making them take their clothes off, putting black bags over their heads and tying them up to beds and bars. A slideshow of photographs had victims posed in profane and sexual positions, which disturbed the group.

Luna Playhouse regular and host of the night George Keushguerian said he chose this film because it moved him and he likes to be informed. He asked a military soldier who was in attendance how factual the movie was in regard to the soldiers.

“I didn’t appreciate the lack of evidence,” said the soldier, who was seconded by several others. “I saw 1 percent of the U.S. Military act that way the whole time I was deployed.”

“They are not heroes,” said Aramazd Stepanian, Artistic Director of the Luna Playhouse, regarding the American troops. “They are trained killers.” The soldier across the room stood up and said, “Your argument is that all soldiers are nothing but killing animals, I’m going to prove you wrong by not killing you right now.” Then he left the room and didn’t come back for the discussion with the director.

Stepanian expressed to the audience (which was mainly Armenian) that he felt so strongly because he believes U.S. troops are treating Iraqis the way the Turks treated the Armenians during their war.

As arguments escalated, Keushguerian tried to mediate and the audience demanded a change of topic.

A tall, middle-aged man in a blue-collared shirt silenced everyone by saying that they were missing the point. He said that the real debate is the waste of money spent for a war that should not have started in the first place.

Indeed, the effective part of the movie was the statistics on death, annihilated cities and the expenses of war. Mazzucco used a C-SPAN clip in which Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was questioned about what the money that was being spent on the war.

“Where did the $3.2 trillion go?” the judge repeatedly asked, as Rumsfeld refused to answer.

Mazzucco’s final attempt at tugging the heart strings was with a statement about how Iraqi children don’t have enough water to drink. The last clip was a soldier in the bed of a military vehicle holding out a bottle of water teasing the children who were chasing after it.

Keushguerian managed to get Mazzucco to answer some questions via Skype after the screening. One of the questions asked was where he had obtained the footage. “YouTube,” said Mazzucco. “The troops posted it themselves.” The quality of most of the footage was poor and there was no evidence to prove that it was indeed posted by the troops.

“It’s not the soldiers’ fault,” said Sonia, a humanitarian and fan of the film. “They’ve been brainwashed,” following the same mentality as Mazzucco.

“Justice,” said director Massimo Mazzucco when asked about his motives for making the film. “I’ve been fighting for the truth about 9/11 for seven to eight years.”

Aside from some online statistics and CSPAN records, there were no legitimately credible sources. The point of the film was unclear. Was it about PNAC, oil or the soldiers? It seemed like a lot of up in the air facts without any proof. This left many guests unsatisfied.

For his next event (if there is one), Keushguerian will likely choose a less controversial film because his wife, mother-in-law, and about a quarter of the audience abandoned the playhouse in outrage.