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The War Tapes

Documentary short list: A look at the films vying for noms in Oscar's docu feature category

Country: United States

Director: Deborah Scranton

Topic: Firsthand account of Operation Iraqi Freedom, filmed by U.S. National Guard soldiers carrying handheld cameras into the escalating violence of the Sunni Triangle.

Financing: Private equity. New Hampshire-based Scranton enlisted help from Chuck Lacy, the former Ben & Jerry’s prexy, who is exec producer on the docu. Producer credits also go to Robert May (“The Fog of War”) and Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”), who also serves as editor.

Budget: Undisclosed.

Shooting format: Mini-DV camcorders.

Why it stands out: Scranton turned down an offer from the National Guard to get embedded, but she came up with an innovative counterproposal to let the soldiers tell their own stories. What results is some of the most informed analysis yet of the U.S. presence in Iraq.

Memorable scene: While the Guard unit escorts a supply convoy along a dark, traffic-choked road, a woman runs in front of Spc. Mike Moriarty’s Humvee. Moriarty captures the aftermath of the fatal accident. “The convoy trucks (were) barreling at 50 miles an hour,” reports Moriarty’s driver, Spc. Jon Baril. “They didn’t even see us pull over … and this woman was lying directly in their path.”

Distribution status: The pic was released theatrically in June by SenArt Films and Scranton/Lacy Films and is available on DVD at TheWarTapes.com. TV distribution also is in the works. It’s taken in $285,000 so far at the B.O.

On the making of the film: “It has been my experience that, despite preconceptions to the contrary, many in the military want their stories told,” Scranton says. “Public Affairs Officer Maj. Greg Heilshorn of the New Hampshire National Guard contacted me with the invitation to embed. When I came back with the idea to give the soldiers cameras instead, he responded immediately.”