Miles Lagoze was a videographer for the Marines in Afghanistan, shooting images that adhered to official government messaging. But during his deployment he kept shooting; Compiling footage that undermined what was being said by U.S. officials and putting it into a new documentary called Combat Obscura.
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Since World War II, the U.S. military has been sending teams of soldiers onto the battlefield with film and photography gear to document the action. These so-called Combat Camera teams often capture the only depictions of major military operations, and their work helps shape public perceptions.
They’ve been called propagandists, guilty of sanitizing the realities on the ground. In 2003, for example, when army soldier Jessica Lynch was captured by Iraqi forces, it was a Combat Camera team that captured her rescue by U.S. Special Operations. The Pentagon was later accused of dramatizing details of the rescue to lift waning public support for the war.
In 2008, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate named Miles Lagoze signed up for the Marines and became a Combat Camera videographer for his unit in Afghanistan. After his deployment in 2011, Lagoze went rogue, capturing footage that undermined official messaging, including scenes of Marines smoking hash and joking about death.
After discharging from the Marines, Lagoze compiled that footage into Combat Obscura, a new feature-length documentary that aims to show the real story of what’s happening on the ground in Afghanistan.
Interview by Nick Gillespie. Shot by Jim Epstein. Edited by Paul Detrick.