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Inside Move: ‘Buffalo’ stirs up controversy

Pic draws fire from military reps, right-wing consumers

NEW YORK — As Miramax prepares for the long-stalled release July 25 of “Buffalo Soldiers,” divergence of opinion over the U.S. presence in Iraq looks to make the satire of corruption on American military bases a hot potato.

The distrib and corporate parent Disney both have received complaints regarding the film from military representatives and right-wing consumers, including objections to the poster featuring pic’s star Joaquin Pheonix in khakis making a peace sign.

The tagline on the poster, “Steal All You Can Steal,” is an irreverent twist on the Army’s “Be All You Can Be” slogan. Recent reports indicate that military officials were given the opportunity to screen the film but declined, saying its content is an inaccurate representation of U.S. Army behavior.

Australian director Gregor Jordan fueled the controversy with statements made last week in London, where the film is due to open.

“Here in the U.K., no one gets upset, but over there, where the president is fighting these military campaigns in the name of democracy, the first casualty seems to be freedom of speech, the cornerstone of any democracy,” Jordan said.

The British-German co-production was acquired by Miramax at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 10, 2001, just one day before the terrorist attacks that radically skewed public opinion on the role of the American military.

With its release coming soon after a Time magazine cover story on the alleged looting of Baghdad Airport by U.S. troops, Jordan’s film about a crafty Army clerk running a lucrative sideline in black-market heroin and arms dealing stands to play into anti-military sentiment and ruffle feathers in conservative camps.

At Sundance in January, one audience member was so riled by Jordan’s views on the military during a post-screening Q&A that he hurled a bottle at the director, which narrowly missed actress Anna Paquin.

After pushing the release back to distance it from the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan and from the height of the conflict in Iraq, Miramax settled on the July slot as a summer counterprogramming tactic.

Given that the film has been gathering dust for more than a year, some controversy and media attention may be just what “Buffalo Soldiers” needs to find an audience and may indeed be a calculated factor.

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