Wednesday at the Traverse City Film Festival, “The Tillman Story”

Headed from Lars Hockstad to the The Opera House for the 3:00 show of “The Tillman Story.” The mood of the crowd seemed to change as we entered the auditorium, which was more stately and formal than the previous theatre. Perhaps it was an instinctive sense of needing to switch from the frivolity of the first full day of the Traverse City Film Festival morning, and
the lighter and more humorous films most of us had seen thus far, in order to get ready for what all of us knew was going to be a difficult film. A lump formed in my throat as I took my seat because I had interviewed Pat Tillman’s mother and father and others connected with the controversial death of this well-known soldier in Afghanistan. The story had broken when I was working at the ABC news station in San Francisco in 2004. It was a story that had stayed
with me always. I wondered how the Director, Amir Bar-Lev, would portray this former NFL player’s life as well as his unconventional family who refused to accept the government’s story of their beloved son and brother’s death. From the opening scene, Bar-Lev
captures an almost perfect tone as he reveals the straightforward irreverence of Pat and his family. The family’s infamous use of the “f” word –even at Pat’s funeral – was woven in to the story. The director lets you experience the frightening feeling that the government might be lying about the way Tillman was killed almost in the same way the family discovered it: slowly,over time. And then the realization that the The White House and the U.S.
military machine is using a corrupt version of Tilman’s death to promote an unpopular war gets under your skin, and stays there, even after the film is over. It was quiet as the crowd filed out of their seats. Lots of tears being wiped away as we walked out of the dark theatre to greet the contrast of a brilliant sun on a balmy early evening in Northern Michigan. Next: “The Trotsky” and interviews with director/writer Jacob Tierney and actress Emily Hampshire.

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2 thoughts on “Wednesday at the Traverse City Film Festival, “The Tillman Story””

  1. All the way around, a heart wrenching story. I’m sure made more so for you having covered it in California. I was always struck by the story that Pat Tillman only signed up because he was worried about his brother and wanted to be by his side. When he was killed and it was played up here at home, it seemed tragic. Little did we know just how tragic. When the rest of the story began to emerge it was surreal. Hard to believe anyone would ever think it was a good idea not just to cover up the truth but to create a very public lie on top of it. Glad it was handled well by Amir Bar-Lev. Thanks for the posts!

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