Note, I wrote this some time ago, and recently ran across on my laptop. I post it now for its potential interest.
Collounsbury’s Review of “Blackhawk Down”
Well, I resisted seeing this film, never having seen a single American film on the region that I thought merited even contempt. I rather liked the book of the same name. As I suspected, the sophistication of the book, which included interviews of Somali participation – that is the Somali POV that explained the why and how of Moqadishu turning on the Americans – was absent. Why was that important? Because in order to understand one has to know not only one’s own POV but also that of the other. The book described rather well how the disaster that was the chase for Aidid came to be, the Somali understanding (e.g. the American effort for its lack of understanding of local enemies and local culture, made * unnecessary enemies * – rather than playing the Clan angles as it might have been.
I should note that I have many Somili connections and have a POV colored by that. Let me also say that having lived better than a third of my life in this part of the world (if we include MENA as this part of the world) I thought it was well shot and in a general manner (for a film ) well done.
However, it missed opportunities. It was, in the end, an “American” film. Perhaps post 11 September that was inevitable. Let me note for the inevitable complaints which will follow, I have personal connections, so save your cheap outrance.
A minor note, I would note in the music the utilization of Baba Maal (a super guy I may add, just super as both Islamic vocalist and as a person. ) was brilliant, although again I could not shake the sense, as in * Siege * the Islamic angle was badly played as only the enemy angle.
I will not focus on the details; it was in the end a cinematic interpretation of a book. To look to this as history is to be a fool.
However, I do submit that many will look to this as history. For that the lack of the Somali perspective, the easy dismissal of the Pakistani concerns et al. problems with the (badly conceived) American obsession with Mohammed Farah Aidid, this is piss poor history and inferior film making.
The film’s usage of the very Somali who guided the Americans to Aidid – a faint echo of the information, IIRC, that the text supplied in re how Somalis who initially supported the American (International) effort turned on the same. – is weak and unexplained indeed the only impression the uninformed viewer can take is that the Sand Nigs and their allied co-religionists the Darkies are just congenitally opposed to Freedom (The text might have been more powerful if it had included information on the larger context and other interventions, such as the much more successful Aussie intervention farther north.)
Returning to the movie, again the weakest point is the lack of context for the Somali context. Excuses and understanding, two different things. There is nothing in the film to tell American audiences the why of what happened (contra the book which did give such an angle). Frankly I found it typical, an interior effort to something like * la Bataille d’Alger[ /I] which did not bother with the cheap sentimentality of this film with its black hat, white hat orientation. Rather, it (la Bataille d’Alger) unmasked the inherent brutality of this genre of conflict.
In sum, the film displays rather typical Hollywood style weaknesses. It does a full job of actually describing the physical action, but a mediocre, at best, job of understanding and displaying the real world in which this kind of action must occur. Again, the point of reference is * la Bataille d’Alger* in which one can understand and see the dynamic of conflict w/o simplistic sentimentality. I look forward to at least some subset of our readership actually viewing and reflecting on this film (and I a may add reflecting on the flimographic power.)
[*: Did not bother with credits, relying on own ear; point of trivia – Baqaara market means the cow herders’ market.]