Documentary examines US military post-cold war

15 April 2013

A new documentary filmed, written and produced by the University of Sydney's recently appointed Centre for International Security Studies director tracks the evolution of the world's largest defence force as it seeks to redefine itself after the Cold War.

Professor James Der Derian's Project Z: The Final Global Event made its debut in the US last week with a special screening at the University of San Francisco's Human Rights Film Festival on Saturday.

The film brings together footage shot by Professor Der Derian over 30 years, examining the United States Armed Forces' change of strategy in the face of enormous and often unforeseen global security challenges. After the fall of the Berlin Wall the US realised it was no longer threatened primarily by one major superpower. The military forces knew they had to prepare themselves to face new, often unknown, threats.

Professor Der Derian's rare footage of military war games and interviews with leading intellectuals in Project Z tells the story of how the US has in recent years dealt with the myriad of challenges and missed opportunities leading up to 9/11 and the Arab Spring.

A student of Professor Der Derian's conceived and eventually directed Project Z when he chanced upon the professor's collection of Super 8, Hi8 and VHS video tapes. Phillip Gara, from Brown University where Professor Der Derian was previously based, offered to edit the footage and in the process recognised the makings of a feature documentary.

"It's about the US defence establishment retooling after the Soviet collapse, offering a historical and critical perspective rather than a short 'op-ed' view of US national security," says Professor Der Derian.

Project Z premiered last November at Germany's prestigious DOK Leipzig film festival. It was made with the support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and under the auspices of Brown University's Global Media Project, co-founded by Professor Der Derian in 2005. One of Dr Der Derian's goals at Sydney is to turn the project into an inter-university Global Media Network that will include scholars, filmmakers, designers and students working together to engage new voices, ideas, and policies through innovative media. "It is increasingly falling upon universities, as the last quasi-autonomous institutions, to frame global events for the public," Dr Der Derian says.

Project Z's special screening in San Francisco was preceded by a reception co-sponsored by the City Lights bookstore and the Centre for International Security Studies.

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