JUSTINE DEDE LOMBARD, CNN/Time journalist, talks to MEDIC WALLY ‘BOLA’ PEREZ in Iraq
Iraq, day. A U.S. base near Baghdad. LOMBARD is accompanied by a number of lighting, makeup, and camera techs, who are all already in place and fussing around with various pieces of equipment as the scene opens. The TECHS’ dialogue will be mouthed, not spoken, as they are not on-camera and therefore have nothing relevant to say to the world. Actors playing the Techs may invent their own ‘dialogue’ to mouth, or just mime some sort of generic speaking. It really doesn’t matter. LOMBARD is self-important and kind of unfriendly, much as anyone to whom entirely too much attention gets paid, day in and day out, might be. She’s here for the story, the story being, in this case, to interview a number of soldiers and then splice the tapes together into a coherent whole which tells the story of American Troops Courageously Liberating Iraq. WALLY ‘BOLA’ PEREZ is the third of five such soldiers, and is already present, in uniform, waiting to be spoken to, somewhat off to the side.
Lombard: [laughs] The things we do for fame, right? Bet Bob never had to do anything like this.
Lighting Tech: “ ”
Lombard: Yeah, well, Bob can suck my cock. Do we have any dirt?
Makeup Tech: “ ”
Lombard: Not too much. Suggesting is all. Hardship. Burnt cork. Adverse circumstances.
Lighting Tech: “ ”
Lombard: Whatever. We linked?
Camera Tech: “ ”
Lombard: Well okay. Not on the nose, it makes it look crooked. Lemme see. [Makeup Tech picks up mirror.] We ready?
Camera Tech: “ ”
Lombard: I suppose we’ll reshoot if we have to. They said five o’clock, but they didn’t say which time zone. It’ll be short anyway. [to PEREZ:] Ready?
Perez: Yes ma’am.
Lombard: Or maybe they said which time zone and I just didn’t write it down. [to PEREZ:] I’m sorry, I’m really much more organized than this usually. I appreciate your waiting. Did you shower?
Lombard: Did. You. Shower. You’re supposed to be fresh from the front. That’s the story we’re doing.
Perez: I’m sorry. Any other day the last two weeks --
Lombard: God. Terri? A little dirt for our boy here, too. Thanks. In five, four, three. I’m here with Wally Perez, an Army medic with the 3rd Infantry Division here in Iraq. Wally, what can you tell us about the morale of the troops here?
Perez: Everybody got this broken feeling like their father or their dog just died.
Lombard: Everybody knows the war is over? That Iraq is no longer under occupation?
Perez: Everybody knows that the boat is leaking. Everybody knows the captain lied. What about things back home? We can’t get enough about what things are like back home. Some of the people here who were in the first Gulf War, they say there used to be more, there was more news from folks. Like we’ve been forgotten over here. So what’s home like?
Lombard [shrugs]: Yellow ribbons and bows. Old Black Joe’s still picking cotton. Everybody talking to their pockets. The poor stay poor, the rich get rich.
Perez: But everybody remembers we’re here, right?
Lombard: Everybody knows.
Perez: Everybody knows? I’ve seen so much death, legs blown off. Mutilated civilians.
Lombard: You live forever.
Perez: Tell that to the guys I’ve lost.
Lombard: What would you guys like to be getting over here?
Perez: Everybody wants a box of chocolates and a long-stemmed rose.
Lombard: Might not transport well. It’s what, 114 degrees here?
Perez: I think they said 105. Depends on how much shade.
Lombard: Still enough to melt and wilt. By the time it gets here. But look. Everybody knows that you’re in trouble. But I’m more interested in kind of an upbeat angle for this piece. Is there anything you’d like to say to somebody back home?
Perez: Well I’d like to say hi to my wife. Cindy: Everybody knows that you love me baby. Everybody knows that you really do.
Lombard: That’s sweet.
Lombard: And when you get orders to move out, what’s the feeling like then? Is there excitement?
Perez: Some, sure. There’s a lot of boredom, when we’re just waiting around for orders. So when orders come it’s kind of a relief. I’m seeing a lot of anxiety too, but, you know, everybody rolls out with their fingers crossed, and mostly everybody makes it back.
Lombard [nodding]: What was your last mission like?
Perez: The good guys lost. I don’t really want to talk about it.
Lombard: So you’re saying that morale is at sort of a critical point.
Perez: I’m saying, take one last look at this before it blows. We write letters, we cry, we yell, and nothing happens. Is this about the anti-war movement? Do people just not care what happens to us ‘cause they’re against us, against the war?
Lombard: I couldn’t really say. I haven’t personally talked to anyone who was against the war. I don’t think there were really that many of them, frankly. But I’m sure it’ll get better. Everybody knows that it’s moving fast.
Lombard: Okay, well, thank you very much. I doubt I’ll be coming back. Everybody knows this scene is dead. They’re talking up Iran now.
Perez: But the piece you’re doing here. That will disclose. . . .
Lombard: Oh, but everybody knows. Pieces about the troops are kind of an artifact of the past. I’m being punished for something I said to our assignment coordinator, Mitzi. Called her a bitch. [to LIGHTING TECH:] But she is a bitch, am I right?
Lighting Tech: “ ”
Lombard: I should move on. It’s been wonderful talking to you though. Wish you all the best.
Perez: So many people you just have to meet.
Lombard: Had to meet. I’m not really getting much of an upbeat angle here. I might not file the story. Thanks again. You were great. Very photogenic, too. [to CAMERA TECH:] He looks good on camera, I bet. Maybe a voiceover. Cut. We’re rolling.
(With love to Leonard Cohen.)
(Story continues at MADONNA.)