Erase and ForgetBerlin Film Festival 2017
James Gordon “Bo” Gritz cuts an unassuming figure, although this impression evaporates the moment he opens his mouth. He’s an intoxicating mixture of steely determination, pure hamminess and contradictory American jingoism. The man is weirdly charming, and director Andrea Luka Zimmerman’s documentary Erase and Forget is the perfect platform for this strange charm. It has been suggested that audiences might already have seen an interpretation of Gritz on screen, since he was reportedly the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo in the Rambo series, as well as John “Hannibal” Smith in The A-Team.
While the film clearly focuses on the indomitable figure of Gritz, there are bigger, darker issues at play here. Gritz is a type of figurehead that is used to address the clandestine and sometimes deceitful operations that the US has engaged in over the years, namely covert operations that could later be denied, giving the whole affair even more of a Hollywood thriller feeling. The former Special Forces officer in fact claims to have killed more than 400 people during his illustrious career. He also ran for President twice. And if that certain someone could do it, anyone can.
Erase and Forget maintains a sense of brevity despite this uncomfortable subtext. Gritz is seen re-enacting various parts of his missions, complete with self-made sound effects like a child who is playing war games. These sequences are demonstrative of what Gritz might have once had to do (presumably with some embellishments), and Zimmerman is wise to have included them. It doesn’t trivialise anything, but to present a detailed and realistic re-enactment would create a darker undertone that could derail the film.
Gritz could easily be a mascot for contemporary post-truth, fake news America. It’s difficult to be certain about much of what he says, but this is all part of the game; and Zimmerman’s intriguing documentary certainly offers Gritz many chances to play.
Erase and Forget does not have a UK release date yet.
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