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The Tillman Story

2009 Documentary

In 2002, as America was poised to go to war in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pat Tillman, a defensive back with the Arizona Cardinals, joined the United States Army, believing he had a duty to serve in a time of need even though he had signed a lucrative deal to play professional football. Tillman served a tour of duty in Iraq and was on patrol in Afghanistan when, on April 22, 2004, he was killed during a reconnaissance mission near the border of Pakistan. When word spread about Tillman's death, the Army issued a press release declaring he'd been shot down while trying to heroically block the fire of a band of Taliban insurgents. While the Army's story painted a glowing picture of the fallen soldier and athlete, some of the details sounded suspect to Tillman's family, and in time they began asking questions. As it happens, Tillman's parents were outspoken in their opposition to the war in Iraq, and after he had seen what was happening firsthand, so was Tillman, who had been a sharp student with an interest in politics during his college years. In time, Tillman's parents demanded an investigation into their son's death, and the testimony of several witnesses revealed that Tillman wasn't felled during an act of heroism -- his death was the result of "friendly fire" by men from his own company, shooting indiscriminately at an unknown target. Filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev examines Pat Tillman's unusual life and times, the facts about his death, how and why the military created a cover story to hide the truth, and his family's battle to bring the real story into the open in the documentary The Tillman Story, which received its world premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. more..

Director: Amir Bar-Lev

Reviews

  • By the way, The Tillman Story has an R rating because of language. Think about that one, too: Lies are rated G and can be heard around the clock on television, but try saying the truth with the proper force and you end up with a restricted audience.

    Mick LaSalle - The San Francisco Chronicle

    20 January 2013

  • This devastating film persuasively portrays them (Tillman family) as finer, more morally sturdy people than the cynical chain of command that lied to them and used their son as a propaganda tool.

    Stephen Holden - The New York Times

    20 January 2013

  • A story that won't go away, won't leave you alone, won't let you feel at ease. Intensely dramatic, filled with elevated heroism, crass self-interest and blatant stupidity, it's a paradigmatic narrative of our tendentious, turbulent times.

    Kenneth Turan - Los Angeles Times

    20 January 2013

  • Where the film shines is in its vivid and affecting portrait of Tillman himself. Instead of the square-jawed hero memorialized by the army and lionized by the news media, we get to know a man of many gifts for many seasons.

    Joe Morgenstern - The Wall Street Journal

    20 January 2013

  • This documentary succeeds triumphantly on so many levels that its full impact doesn't hit you until you have time to register its aftershocks.

    Peter Travers - Rolling Stone

    20 January 2013

Awards

  • Best Documentary

    Chicago Film Critics Association Awards (2010)

     
  • Best Documentary

    Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards (2010)

     
  • Best Documentary

    Florida Film Critics Circle Awards (2010)

  • Best Documentary

    Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards (2010)

     
  • Top Five Documentaries

    National Board of Review (2010)