Rules of Engagement Director Denies Problems
The director and stars of the action movie Rules of Engagement presented at the Deauville film festival shrugged off media criticism of its portrayal of a US army rescue operation at an embassy in Yemen, which misfires badly.
The film has aroused controversy both for its depiction of Arab world politics and for its at times critical view of US military policies.
But director William Friedkin told reporters in France on Friday that the film had caused no problems in the United States "apart from a group of 11 people in Chicago" and that though a lot had been written about the film, discussion had focused on the morality of the action of the main character, an army colonel who kills an unarmed civilian during the operation.
"Everything in the film, every incident, including the attack on the embassy in Yemen, has a basis in reality," Friedkin said.
"A lot of research went into the script," he said, noting that the original story was by James Webb, based on his experiences as a Marine, lawyer and senior government official with experience of combat in Vietnam.
Actor Tommy Lee Jones, who plays the army lawyer who defends the colonel (Samuel L. Jackson) at his trial for court martial, said he had no problem taking on a role that was either favorable to or critical of the US army so long as it is based on truth.
"What you're looking for is a good script, a good cast and a good director, and I don't care what a film criticizes as long as it tells the truth."
And Jackson said though some aspects of army conduct in the film were criticized, his respect for the US Marines had increased during the shooting of the film in Morocco where several Marines had worked as advisors.
"These young people have been in life and death situations, some of them were formed in Desert Storm (the US-led operation in Iraq in 1990-91). They are very smart and brave, and they were prepared to allow us to show the army not just in a positive light but also the negative things."
For Friedkin, one of the strongest ideas in the film, which shows a nine-year-old child wielding a kalshnikov, was the use of children in war.
He agreed that the image of the child was disturbing -- "it disturbed me as well" -- but cited a recent report that said in Yemen, for a population of 16 million people, there were some 15 million automatic weapons scattered around the country.
The image, he said, was an echo of the situation in Vietnam where US troops had been fired on by combatants who were little more than boys, "and fired back."
In view of the reality, "we can defend such images as possible," he said-AFP
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