God is my co-pilot review (ENG & NL)
Source: Helsinki Journal
Source: Mikro Gids
Source: VPRO, the 20th of December 2000
Source: Trouw, the 4th of November 2000
Source: IO Film (Rebort), 2000
Karin Junger’s remarkably candid portrait of pilots engaged in the bombing of Serbia and Kosovo in 1999 is part of a series of documentaries from Holland based on the ten commandments.
Focus on commandment
This particular documentary focuses on the commandment “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”, showing pilots praying to God before they go out and break another commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Kill”.
The level of access that Junger has achieved is impressive. Through interviews, in particular with the ship’s chaplain, a man of fierce conviction, she raises important questions about the use of religious rhetoric in war.
The Holy Man
The “Holy Man”, as he has written on his helmet, is quite clear about his role aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Roosevelt: “I couldn’t drop the bomb, but I can embrace them that do and bring the love of God to them if they struggle with that.”
He talks about them being “the strong right arm of God”, “God’s instrument” and refers to the din of a jet taking off above his cabin as “the sound of freedom”. He admits “unfortunately we will kill thousands”.
Interview with pilots
The interviews with the pilots focus more on the fears and emotions that they experience going into action. Intercut are preparations for a mission, footage of jets whooshing off and flying in, the guys taking time out in the rec room, praying, at one point, even with a full gospel service in full flow.
The pilots’ responses are frank. One talks about how blessed he feels when flying under the stars. Another talks of the “rush” of seeing a bomb hit its target – “You really feel alive”. The title is virtually a direct quotation by one of the pilots who says, “I know that God is with me. His presence is in the cockpit with me as I go flying. What better co-pilot can you have?”
Then Junger poses the question, how do they deal with the possibility that they have killed someone? The pilots are visibly uncomfortable. The bomb attacks, which came about after months of diplomacy failed to end the bloodshed in Kosovo and Serbia, were aimed at military targets and power plants, they point out. “We do try to drop bombs safely,” says one, without a hint of irony.
A dirty job without getting dirtied
The sense you get here is of men trying to do a dirty job without getting dirtied. That means not just shutting out thoughts of potential casualties, but justifying casualties. With God on their side, the pilots can’t do wrong. As one says: “I don’t think I’m going to be held accountable.” In the wrong hands, religion always was a noxious weapon.
Source: Patheos (Peter T. Chattaway), the 26th of September, 2001
Forget Charlton Heston. And for that matter, forget Krzysztof Kieslowski, too. One of the Vancouver International Film Festival’s special presentations this year is a series of short documentaries based on the Ten Commandments, and unlike past films, which have explored this material through the eyes of Protestant melodrama and Catholic mysticism, this series, which was produced for Dutch television, has a more skeptical, even secular, sensibility.
Striking war-themed film
The most striking war-themed film, and perhaps the most troubling, in light of the ‘God Bless America’ rhetoric coming from south of the border, is Karin Junger’s God Is My Co-Pilot, in which an American navy chaplain tells the pilots on an aircraft carrier that their bombing runs over Kosovo are part of a larger mission from God.
“Think about it,” says the chaplain. “What are we out here for, if not to be the strong right arm of God?” The pilots talk about the “rush” they get while dropping their bombs, and about how “blessed” they feel to have such a good view of the heavens, and about “the courage that comes out of nowhere” when they fly, which they attribute to God, but they understandably avoid talking about the civilians they might have killed.
Command against misusing God’s name
Interestingly, Junger’s film is not based on the command against murder, but on the command against misusing God’s name. Even those viewers who don’t care for religion may find that there is quite a bit to meditate on here.