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‘The Hurt Locker' to screen Saturday in Malibu

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Posted: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 12:00 am

The film captures the combat stress and the “indiscriminate killing nature” of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that have come to symbolize the war in Iraq.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

In the past seven years, no less than 28 films concerning the war in Iraq have been released worldwide. But, judging from the accolades given by dozens of film critics, nominations for Golden Globes (13), Critics' Choice (8) and Screen Actors Guild (2) awards, and a blessing by Newsweek and The Washington Post as being “one of the 10 best movies of the decade,” no Iraq War film has captured that experience as powerfully as “The Hurt Locker.”

The Malibu Film Society will screen the movie this Saturday at the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue. The drama, about an elite Army bomb disposal squad stationed in Baghdad, has just been named best picture of the year by the Producers Guild of America, a usually reliable predictor of Academy Award honors.

As with several of its recent showings, the Malibu Film Society is offering the only local screening of “The Hurt Locker.” The film's director, Kathryn Bigelow, has been so critically appraised that even her former husband, James Cameron, recently said she should have won the Golden Globe he had just been awarded for “Avatar.”

“There's a reason Cameron has been very generous in talking up Bigelow,” MFS Executive Director Scott Tallal said. “This film is riveting. The performances, the story, all of it.”

The performance by Jeremy Renner as SFC William James, the maverick specialist who lives for the thrill of dismantling a bomb, has been particularly noted in critical circles. And the film's special effects have just received a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) nomination (one of eight) for Best Special Visual Effects.

Malibu resident Richard Stutsman, who will speak at Saturday's screening, and was the visual effects supervisor for “The Hurt Locker,” said the film shoot had a “degree of difficulty that was one of the highest I've ever done,” due to challenges of language, technical issues and months spent getting “permission” to progress.

“But, by far, the biggest challenge was trying to import explosives into a country in the Middle East,” Stutsman said in an interview with The Malibu Times, who spent five months in Amman, Jordan for production.

“They didn't have much structure for filmmaking and I had to go through Jordanian security for everything,” Stutsman said.

At one point, Stutsman said he was so desperate that he contacted a Syrian black market dealer to secure explosive powder and was headed to pick up the shipment when he got the call approving his official purchase. At times he said he was grateful to be working in a country that had a monarchy because his frustrating dead-ends could get a “bump” from the royal family.

“We had no idea what we were getting into, shooting over there, and there were so many faux pas,” he said. “Our saving grace was our camera operator [Scott MacDonald] and our editors [Chris Innis and Bob Murawski]. But now that I've worked in Jordan, I'd go back in a heartbeat. The Jordanian people were just wonderful.”

The film has been endorsed by several veterans-benefits organizations, including the Wounded Warrior Project, the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Memorial Foundation and TAPS.org (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), an organization that helps families who have lost fallen soldiers. TAPS will have a representative speaking at the screening on Saturday.

“We did a screening here in Washington for senior military personnel,” TAPS Chairwoman Bonnie Carroll said. “Dr. Laurie Sutton, the Army's chief psychiatrist, said it really shows the experience of our soldiers today.

“Once you see the film, you get an accurate picture of the cognitive dissonance of this brotherhood of soldiers once they return home to their families,” Carroll continued. “You understand why soldiers begin to say that they have two families.”

Carroll said the film perfectly captures decades of research that have gone into dealing with combat stress and the “indiscriminate killing nature” of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that have come to symbolize the war in Iraq.

“I'm grateful to Kathryn for telling this story in such an amazing way,” Carroll said. “Because unless you've been out there, you just don't get it.”

The MFS screening of “The Hurt Locker” will take place Saturday, Jan. 30, at 7:30 p.m. at the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue. Tickets can be purchased and more information found online at www.malibufilmsociety.org

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