Every year the Oscar Awards Ceremony concentrates the interest of the public worldwide. But still, only a few people know that many of the awarded films were previously approved or censored by the Pentagon. This is revealed in the extraordinary documentary broadcasted by Reportage Without Frontiers, on the occasion of its 10th birthday and the special report it presents on TV, fake images and propaganda. The secret “Operation Hollywood” also involves sitcoms, apart from films. Even Lassie, the popular children TV show has been censored: in the 50’s, the Pentagon asked the producers of the show to cut out a scene that showed a crash (due to a malfunction) of a military aircraft, because they believed it flawed the air-force’s image…
The office responsible for approving the movies is the Entertainment Office of the Pentagon that was founded at the end of the 1920’s, at a time when the United States realized that the battle of images was as important as the battles on the battlefields. Ever since then, up until today, any script of a movie or TV series containing scenes that might need the military’s assistance in order to be filmed, has had to get approval by the Entertainment Office. Screenwriters, directors, and producers have been readjusting and sometimes self-censoring their work, so that it falls in line with the orders of the Pentagon generals, that in return provide them with access to troops, tanks, helicopters and aircraft carriers.
The Vietnam War caused a major crisis in the relationship of Hollywood and the military, as filmmakers refused to present an idyllic image of the army. Significant films, like Platoon and Apocalypse Now, were filmed without any assistance by the Pentagon, which in fact “expelled” their directors for portraying the atrocities of the American army in Vietnam.
After the temporary “divorce” of the 70’s, the relations between Hollywood and the Pentagon were reestablished in the 80’s, when the movies started to focus on the US army’s technological supremacy, giving the public the image of America as a world superpower, something that the government liked. Top Gun, a major-hit movie, is a typical example of this. It actually prepared the American public opinion for the first Gulf War, which was supposedly based on “smart bombs” and “surgical” air strikes.
Hollywood has always been able to adjust itself to the signs of times. Therefore, from the beginning of the 90’s, long before the issue of terrorism got out of hand, movies about terrorist organizations that tried to hit the American superpower, started to make their appearance… However, just as in the previous years, not all movies managed to get the approval of the Pentagon, especially those that put forward significant questions about politics concerning the actions of terrorists and the position of the US government.
The documentary that was produced by ARTE, features interviews with journalists, directors, producers, politicians, as well as members of the Entertainment Office, that explain with what criteria the Pentagon decides whether or not to support a movie.