Release Date: Oct 4th, 2010
Running Time: 93 minutes
Director: Kristian Fraga
Starring: Mike Scotti
Shot by First Lieutenant Mike Scotti on his Mini-DV camera, and told through his own journal entries, This Is War is more than just war and being on the front lines. It’s an account of the beginning of a soldier’s own war inside and how he would later deal with these experiences.
Mike was in the UK earlier this month for interviews and I was able to meet up with him for a chat about the film. Arriving at the London hotel, I was more than a little excited to talk to him about his time with the Marine Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom and for him to trace his route through Iraq with me. What first struck me about him was how warm and friendly he was. Perhaps it was also due to my first time meeting a war veteran that I was expecting someone more like Colonel Quaritch out of Avatar or Arnie in Commando who was at least 6.5ft tall, intimidating and muscle bound and being pleasently surprised that the real life former soldier was actually just like you and me, just a lot braver and with more knowledge about guns and heavy artillery!
As we crack on, I take out a map of Iraq which I’d printed. I really wanted to get a sense of the distance the men had covered and to pinpoint certain events which were shown in the film. Using a red pen, Mike began drawing on the map the route they took and explaining what happened at each of those points.
MIKE: We started in Kuwait and we drove through the area to these swamps and then linked up with this road and then on An Nasiriyah was our first big fight. After An Nasiriyah, this is Route 7. Route 7, we fought all the way through Al Hayy and then Al Kut. Al Kut was a big fight for us. Al Hayy was a fight for us but it’s not in the film as I didn’t take much video there as I was busy. There’s a highway with lots of cars, airfields, it was kind of around here… Route 17 heads this way so this is 17 and this is 7 (traces the routes on the map and circles the points). The night battle where you see all the fucking shit at night, was at the crossroads of the 7/17 highway so that was that battle.
MIKE: There’s another one. North of An Nasiriyah there’s a town called Ash Shatrah which no one has ever fuckin’ heard of… I thought I was gonna die! I got an hour of videotape because I thought that we were gonna die; a Russian Sagger missile was fired at the command vehicle with all the antennas sticking out of it. I was like “I’m gonna fuckin’ die here!” so I put the video camera on and I went. It was fuckin’ mayhem, rounds bouncing off, I had four artillery missions going at once. It was like a thirty hour battle, it was crazy.
The guns, the howitzers they were shooting for us, the big artillery, were like 20 miles behind us. I’m hearing gunfire all around me and I’m calling the artillery and I’m hearing fucking gunfire through the handset on the radio. I’m asking the guns “are you guys in contact”, they’re like “yeah, we’re getting fuckin’ attacked right now!” Holy shit! We’re 20 miles north of the northern-most unit in Iraq at that point and those guys were getting attacked. My buddy got his hand blown off – it was fucking really crazy. So this was the main fight.
Then we hit Al Kut. In the movie you may remember this, we were gonna meet up with the rest of the division. So what we did, we came back here, we drove all the way back to Qal’at Sukkar then went up Route 6. Basically, came back around and hit Route 6 – Baghdad.
Route 6 had already been cleared, remember in the film I’m like “We feel pretty fucking powerful going over this road” and we’re driving real fast. We came in from this way, the other two regiments came in from this way and the army came in from this way. We were on our own, we did a combat river crossing across the Yalu River which is an offshoot of the Tigris River and these big aluminium tracks wouldn’t float. They’re not made for attacking cities, they’re made for coming off ships and attacking the beach. Then you get out and you get into a better vehicle and then you take a helicopter or whatever. So we’re in these fuckin’ aluminium vehicles with rounds pinging around in inside of them and stuff so we basically opened up a second front in Baghdad in the swamps. Remember the part where I’m like “this sucks, I wish I was back in the desert!” that was all that shit in Baghdad.
Life for Mike hasn’t always been about war though, and that was something I was keen to ask him about.
MIKE: Before Iraq, I had a very happy childhood. Good parents; dad’s a doctor, my mom’ a nurse and two loving brothers, both older than me. I grew up in a great town, on the countryside of New Jersey, believe it or not! New Jersey gets a bad rap but there are some really nice areas. I graduated fifth in my class out of four hundred in high school, was always creative, spent a year at Burford College of Music up in Boston, studied studio production engineering for the hell of it and then and then started regular college. There was always a business side and logical side and also a creative side. I’ve been lucky in that I was able to do both. That’s kinda been a theme throughout my life; while I’m doing all these businesses, I’m also doing film and toggling back and forth.
In the film, Mike is shown carrying a picture of his friend Beth Quigley in his wallet. Beth had been killed in the September 11th attacks in New York and it’s something which has affected him greatly.
MIKE: We just did a huge fundraiser for Beth that her sister put together for a charity that I started called Reserve Aid. We raised $46,000 that night in a screening on September 11th and I gave Beth a little bit of a eulogy.
So far, Reserve Aid has helped to raise over $3 million for the families of wounded veterans and Mike currently sits on its Board of Directors.
MIKE: Beth was somebody who… I never dated her and she wasn’t like my best fiend, but I knew her. I was in a lot of dance classes with her, she was actually a year ahead of me in school but I was in all the Spanish classes with people that were a year ahead of me and I sat next to her for three years. We were at the same parties and had the same friends so she represents a time in my life that was good and pure. She was beautiful and she was happy and to think that she got fucking killed. You lose a buddy in a war its devastating, fucking devastating man, but in the end the guy is a warrior, he signed up. There’s no draft, he knew like we all did that what we’re getting into but nobody deserves that, on either side. No civilians deserve to die, they didn’t choose a war. She died a violent death, nobody knows for sure but she was probably alive when the towers went down
It felt like it was only moments ago I sat down to chat with him, but already time has flown by and Mike is scheduled for another interview. I could have sat and listened to him the whole day as there was still so much I wanted to ask him about. This Is War is now out on DVD and I would urge you to see it, because after watching it, like me, you will also have so many questions about the nature and necessity of war and its effects.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .