Pat Tillman film stirs Sundance, ponders heroes

Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:19pm EST
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By Cameron French

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - When Amir Bar-Lev first looked into the story of U.S. football star-turned-soldier Pat Tillman, he was intrigued that the apparent steely-jawed war hero was an intellectually curious man who harbored doubts about the U.S. war effort.

"Then I realized I was doing the same thing to Pat Tillman that everybody had done to Pat Tillman, which is to try to appropriate him and shear off those sides of his personality that didn't fit my own world view," Bar-Lev said in an interview at the Sundance Film Festival.

The attempt to take ownership of Tillman and the circumstances of his 2004 death in Afghanistan lies at the heart of "The Tillman Story", Bar-Lev's documentary that debuted this weekend at Sundance.

Tillman, who gave up a multimillion-dollar National Football League contract to enlist in the U.S. military in the wake of the September 11 attacks, became an instant symbol of American patriotic self-sacrifice after his death.

First reported as dying to protect his comrades under heavy Taliban fire, the military soon revised its account to say Tillman had been killed by friendly fire during the chaos of combat.

The film, which has garnered strong early reviews, tells how his family became frustrated with the conflicting accounts, began unearthing disturbing details of Tillman's final minutes and concluded the military's tale of his death was twisted solely to create a war hero.

Bar-Lev uses extensive interview with Tillman's family and fellow soldiers to tie together events.


<p>Former NFL star and U.S. Soldier Pat Tillman is pictured in this June 2003 file photograph. REUTERS/Photography Plus C/O Stealth Media Solutions/Handout</p>