Film Review: Drone

Film review from Major Aghan Humayun Amin. (Spoilers ahead)



Last night I watched a movie named “ Drone” with immense interest. 

Drones have been a major part of my research since 2006 when I personally and closely saw some drone strikes while serving as a consultant in Afghanistan and Pakistan. My main client were Canadians and to be specific SNC Lavalin , at that time Canada’s largest consulting company and worlds fifth largest. The movies director is a Canadian citizen which multiplied my interest as Canada sometimes moves opposite United States and has been doing so with varied levels since loyalists fled to Canada after the rebellion of the American Colonies. 

The first issue with this movie which could be very hard hitting and a block buster is that it misses the small details , which is a case of lack of common sense and sweeping judgements which were entirely avoidable. 

The first image failure occurred when while claiming to depict Pakistans wild west Waziristan region the area filmed and shown was Pakistans biggest city Karachi. To deliver the most unkindest cut of all as Shakespeare would have described it , the first shot titled Waziristan shows sky scraper buildings in Karachi rather than mud houses and totally opposite images for which Waziristan is famous and known. 

This is not a case of finances but pure and simple lack of imagination. The film maker could have simply driven few miles inside the country side from Karachi and found good places resembling Waziristan in interior Sindh or Baluchistan both very close to Karachi. 

The second major failure is depicting typical Urdu speaking Karachiites who have nothing in common with tribal Pakhtoons. The actors are speaking with typical karachiite accents rather than rugged tribal Pashtuns of Waziristan. 

This is a case of adding insult to injury as drone strikes affected a 90% Pashtun population and the major accessory to the crime was Pakistans military usurper, a typical die hard Karachiite from North India. 

A greater failure of imagination is showing Miran Shah in Waziristan and showing vendors cutting and slicing fish which is rarely found in Miran Shah Bazaars. 

These opening scenes of the movie leave a very bad taste in the mouth. 

The first thing that struck me was that Mr. Jason Bourque was playing to the gallery , a particular Pakistani/Asian audience in Canada. I would not question this approach.The creator of the movie must be having his reasons. The movie is about a super brilliant Pakistani expatriate educated at Oxford whose wife and children die in a US drone strike in Miran Shah Wazirstan .He hacks the US data and finds out about the drone contractor who killed his family. He travels to Washington state in USA via Seattle and meets the drone contractor on pretext of buying his fathers boat. He then reveals himself and bluffs the drone contractor with a brief case containing an explosive device while in reality the brief case contains his familys photographs. 

In an ensuing man to man fight the CIA contractor stabs the Pakistani to death. Resultantly he is struck by extreme guilt and resigns his job as a protest. The movie could have been a powerful attack on US drone program but it misses many far more complicated issues. 

First the US Drone program had Pakistani usurper Musharrafs support and support of Musharrafs successors i.e General Kiani and President Zardari. 

The second issue about drones is that it is a case of extreme ethnic chauvinism where Pakistani establishment dominated by Punjabis and Mohajir émigrés simply sold two tribal districts of Waziristan consisting of 99 % Pashtuns to US drone strikes. 

Depicting Pashtuns , while showing North Indian Karachiiites is an extremely ironic insult to the intelligence of a viewer who is from Pakistan or from the region and understands the culture and subtle points of ethnicity. 

The major criticism is that Afghan War or the Af Pak war has many victims. But the film shows a distorted reality. What about some 2200 US soldiers killed in pointless actions in Afghanistan ? Is that not a personal tragedy . The film shows United States as the oppressor and the sensitive , super intelligent Pakistani as the victim. 

Things are far more complicated than this. 

First it was the Pakistani military regime of General Musharraf who in order to deceive the USA falsely projected Waziristan (the scene of 90 % US drone strikes) as the centre of all terrorism in the world. Otherwise Waziristan would never have been subjected to drone strikes. 

Second the Pakistani military usurper launched an absolutely unprovoked military action in Waziristan in 2003 in order to deceive the USA while he hid 90 % of Afghan Taliban in Pakistani Baluchistan. A great tragedy evolved in Waziristan from 2003 till todate not because of US drone strikes but because of extreme Machiavellian as well as ethnically callous and CHAUVINISTIC Pakistani tactics in using Waziristan as a bait and destroying a whole region. 

While US drone strikes killing non combatants cannot be condoned , simply highlighting these in the movie creates a distorted one sided picture of history .Certainly such movies will act as primers and catalysts of creating thousands of terrorists who will see attacking the USA as a righteous cause and a just war ? These are complicated ethical questions and our Canadian director has certainly stirred a hornets nest. 

Such was the Pakistani callousness that Pakistani military requested US drone support in Kohistan region and a US drone by mistake killed over 15 Pakistani soldiers ? The matter was simply hushed up.  Worst case of Pakistani hypocrisy and disregard was the Gora Prayo incident where Pakistani generals simply submitted to all US demands and even omitted criticizing US actions in killing 27 Pakistani soldiers including a major at Gora Prayo post . Wazirstan was used by Pakistani state as a red rag to mislead the US bull while Waziristan had no connection with ninety percent US casualties in Afghanistan. 

Interestingly 98 percent drone strikes occurred in the tenure of a half African US president. 

While US drone strikes can be criticized at the highest level , US drone operator contractors are small fries and cannot be blamed. 

CONCLUSION Mr. Jason Bourque touched a very sensitive strategic theme without fully researching the larger picture. While he may think that he has made a good anti war movie , his movie will serve mostly as an excellent propaganda movie for creating hundreds and thousands of ISIS , Daesh and Taliban recruits. 

While Anti Americanism was an interesting theme in Vietnam war , describing the US state as a terrible villain as the movie subtly depicts is a serious conceptual distortion of history and failure. Distorting culture , ethnicity and anthropology is yet another serious failure of the movie. 

The lesson is that careful research is required to produce movies in today’s world as movies can be more dangerous than the drones that were vilified in the movie for the wrong reasons. 

Published by

Omar Ali

I am a physician interested in obesity and insulin resistance, and in particular in the genetics and epigenetics of obesity As a blogger, I am more interested in history, Islam, India, the ideology of Pakistan, and whatever catches my fancy. My opinions can change.

13 thoughts on “Film Review: Drone”

  1. Omar Bhai

    Did you watch Bard of Blood on Netflix? Is there any Indian actor who looks more convincing as a Pakistani than Jaideep Ahlwat (and not in a caricatured way).

    1. Yes, he was good in that role. The whole storyline is beyond ridiculous of course, but production values were good and if you suspend disbelief, you can be entertained (and propaganda side is done well)

      1. LOL, I was just relieved that the Pakistani characters didn’t break into “Janaab, Haan Janaab” after every 2nd sentence.

  2. “First it was the Pakistani military regime of General Musharraf who in order to deceive the USA falsely projected Waziristan (the scene of 90 % US drone strikes) as the centre of all terrorism in the world. Otherwise Waziristan would never have been subjected to drone strikes. ”

    Former FATA (now merged with KP) was lawless autonomous region of Pakistan. After 9/11 majority of terrorists toke refugee there running from US invasion. These are basic historical facts which cannot be denied unless one have agenda. US asked Pakistan to take care of them.

    Waziristan was by far the worst and origin of 90% of terrorist attacks in rest of Pakistan. But drones were never the answer. Drones only were used by jihadis for more propaganda. What actually brought peace was proper military operation which US has been asking Pakistan to start for many years.

    Check out number of terrorist attacks along with drone attacks before and after Waziristan military operation.

  3. On the margins, there are couple (Serbian) words/toponyms for researchers:

    Miran – peaceful
    Gora – mountain
    ‘…sky scraper buildings in Karachi rather than mud houses….’:
    mud house – Calcutta

  4. Depicting Pashtuns , while showing North Indian Karachiiites is an extremely ironic insult to the intelligence of a viewer who is from Pakistan or from the region and understands the culture and subtle points of ethnicity.

    I suspect the producer/directors target audience/market are not Pakistanis. Western Liberals ?, who will watch the film and confirm their biases.

    Interestingly 98 percent drone strikes occurred in the tenure of a half African US president.
    Do you have a reference to that.

    1. The drone strikes are well recorded on various sites and certainly very few in bush era – the second point is that 95 percent were only in two small districts – the sorest point is that Pakistan army initiated action without ANY PROVOCATION IN 2003 to start getting a 1.5 billion usd package per year – some details in my podcast below

    2. Most of the commentators here have no clue about FATA war whereas I am
      Connected with Afghanistan since 1979 and based in Afghanistan since 2002 and have done projects in all 35 provinces in addition I served in Pakistan army till majors rank and trained Sri Lanka Bangladeshi Iraqi officers and also served in afghan army in civil war

    3. If you need any material you can contact me on my e mail which you can get from my dearest brother omar Ali sahib

  5. This is a gross mis-characterization of the conflict.

    Pak did not randomly select Pashtun areas to bomb in order to fool the Americans. They bombed areas where the TTP were operating in. For those unaware, the TTP splintered off the main Taliban for the purpose of conducting terror attacks against Pak, in retribution for Pak bending to American pressure and tacitly aiding in the NATO invasion of Afghanistan.

    Basically, Pak would say these airstrikes were against the Afghan Taliban, but really they were against the TTP Pak Taliban. So yes, a different group of terrorists were being targeted, but terrorists all the same.

    I’m against such strikes regardless, but its pure dishonesty (or ignorance) to pretend these were random strikes against pashtuns.

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