Monday, September 24, 2012

Review of Waco: The Rules of Engagement


  1. Overall I found Margaret’s video about the Emmy award winning documentary, Review of Waco: The Rules of Engagement, to be very informative and interesting. From listening to the video review of the documentary, I understood the theme of the film that the government way overstepped its boundaries by ruthlessly attacking a compound of people, the Branch Davidians, who were part of a religious cult and did not conform to social norms. Margaret made it very clear what the theme of the movie was and thus I had no trouble deducing it.
    The general pacing of Margaret’s broadcast was very good. It was not too fast so you couldn’t keep up, but not too slow so that you were bored. It was a great pace and I had no trouble following along and taking notes about what was being said. The volume was also very satisfactory. She annunciated her words and spoke clearly; I had no issues with her speech or the volume. Margaret seemed very well prepared. She knew what she was talking about and rarely tripped over her words. She was not looking down or obviously reading off a script which also made her seem prepared. She made eye contact with the viewer and did not seem nervous. On a similar note, her voice and demeanor were confident. She mentioned she had done some outside research on her topic, which is definitely a sign of being well prepared. She was well informed about her documentary and had obviously paid a lot of attention to the film in addition to doing her outside research. Her voice was steady and not too monotone, she could have had more expression but it was not necessary to understand and listen effectively to her broadcast. On the whole, she seemed very well prepared and confident about her documentary.
    During the course of the review of the documentary Margaret provided many important facts about the film. One I found interesting was that 76 Branch Davidians were killed during the siege, with 25 of the 76 being children. This fact was especially disturbing because of the high percentage of the deaths being children.. It showed me that the government made no discretion in who they killed during this siege, or it at least seems that way. Another important fact was that the government made the evidence that could condemn them as guilty in this case, unavailable. The evidence needed to convict the government was mysteriously unavailable, destroyed or missing. This information kind of shocked me. To hear about the government doing something so underhanded and sneaky is something you would see in the movies, not documentaries about true events. It really shows how the government is capable of abusing its power.
    This film sound very interesting and I would love to watch it or learn more about this issue. Some strengths of the film seem to be the details unearthed that the government tried to hide from people, such as its destruction of important information. As Margaret tells it, a weakness of the film would be its lack of clear timeline of the 51 day long siege. The documentary apparently only really shows the first and the last day of the siege, dedicating little time to the remaining 49 days, which could definitely be a problem when trying to learn about this issue.
    Other information about this film I gleaned was that it was a very good documentary, scooping up an Emmy award and being an academy award nominee. It seems to have a bias towards the Branch Davidians and portrays the government and FBI as very bad. This could potentially skew a viewers opinion as the information may not be entirely accurate, and some information was omitted, such as the negotiations between David Koresh and the FBI where Koresh was stalling and the FBI was getting impatient. Overall the documentary seemed very interesting and its review by Margaret was nicely done.

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  4. The theme of the documentary was clearly explained by Margaret in her review. She gave an in-depth description of the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF)’s siege on the compound of Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas, and how it relates to individual rights. It appeared that the main theme of the documentary was governmental abuses and how ultimate power was exercised over a minority group. The theme also seemed to include a criticism of that exercise of power.
    The volume of the video was perfect. It was neither too loud nor too soft. The pacing was also very good. There were no awkward pauses, and Margaret spoke at a reasonable speed (neither too face nor excruciatingly slow). In addition, Margaret enunciated her words very clearly, which was particularly helpful since many names and titles were long and easily confusable.
    Margaret seemed very informed. She even went so far as to do outside research. She noted that the director displayed bias towards the Branch Davidians, so she conducted her own research to find out “the other side of the story.” This is very impressive, and lends even more credibility to her analysis. In particular, it makes her commentary at the end even more credible, since the viewer of her review knows that Margaret has taken the time to explore all aspects of the event (even those not covered by the film, such as negotiations between the FBI and the leader of the Branch Davidians). Margaret also appears and speaks confidently.
    One interesting aspect of the film highlighted by Margaret is the notion that the siege by the government was an abuse of minority power. Margaret linked the attack to the feature of majoritarian democracy that allows the majority to infringe upon the rights of the minority. This connection is vital to helping the view of the review understand how the documentary relates to what we are learning in class. Another great detail is the fact that the investigation into the actions of the FBI and ATF were likely corrupt, as the federal government was allowed to investigate itself. According to Margaret, the film reasonably infers that although the government was expunged of almost all wrongdoing, it is likely that they are not actually innocent, especially in light of details like tanks running over the graves of dead Branch Davidians.
    The film seemed very interesting to me. Waco sounds like a noteworthy exploration into governmental abuses on the rights of minority groups. This is a particularly important topic, because as Margaret stated, if the publics neglects to critiques abuses like this one, than the abuses are likely to occur. A major strength of the film appears to be the depth of research that it goes into in an effort to uncover what truly happened during the siege. Using special infrared technology to map the paths of bullets sounds more CSI than political documentary, and no doubt added an interesting twist that only a high-budget, high-quality documentary could provide. The footage of these tests must be incredible. A major weakness of the film seems to be it’s obvious bias towards the Branch Davidians. From Margaret’s analysis, it sounds as though the director came into the project with a particular point to prove, and was hostile to the inclusion of any details that contradicted his presumptuous vision for the film. As Margaret pointed out, there are two sides to every story, even this one, where it seems as though the government is obviously at fault. I think that the other side of the story should have been told.

  5. Margaret’s point about the affect this documentary has had in protecting minority rights from abuses by the majoritarian federal government was very strong and informative. Basically equating documentaries to government watchdogs, Margaret lent a new legitimacy to this form of media. This was a good inclusion since she was recommending the film to others. The anecdotes about those involved mooning Branch Davidians, blasting music, and being otherwise disrespectful also helped me connect to the storyline and want to watch the film. However, I disliked the lighting of the review. It was very dark, and made Margaret appear shadow cast and sinister, a poor stylistic choice in my opinion.