Coming Home: Bowe Bergdahl versus the United States

You can stream and/or buy Sean Langan’s film The USA vs. Bergdahl on the Journeyman Pictures website.

The USA vs. Bergdahl

The only doc to access Bowe Bergdahl’s story

The story of the homecoming of US Army sergeant and former Taliban prisoner Bowe Bergdahl, after five years in captivity.

When Bowe Bergdahl infamously walked off his base in Afghanistan in 2009 he was captured by the Taliban and held for five years, tortured and kept in a tiny cage. But the nightmare only continued when he was freed by President Obama in exchange for five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo. Arriving home, he was vilified in the media as a deserter who collaborated with the enemy. Donald Trump called for him to be shot as a “dirty rotten traitor”. So what is his side of the story? Film-maker Sean Langan gets exclusive access to Bowe Bergdahl and to his parents, presenting a moving story of a family caught in a storm of false allegations, and a soldier who made a mistake and paid a terrible price.

Nobody knows what Bowe Bergdahl was planning when he left his post in Afghanistan with nothing but a camera and a compass. He claims he was heading to a military headquarters to complain about ineffective leadership. Others allege that he had plans to collaborate with the Taliban. Whatever the truth, Major General Dahl, who led the military investigation in to his defection describes how Bergdahl was “completely delusional“. Evidence suggests he was in the midst of a breakdown, writing ‘Velcro/zip/Velcro/zip‘ repeatedly across pages of his diary.

Dismissed from the Coast Guard for being “psychologically unfit“, Bowe joined the military after acquiring a medical waiver and was soon after deployed to Afghanistan. After being captured by members of the Haqqani Network, Bowe recounts how he would tell himself daily, “you’re not making it out of this. You’re a dead man”. After repeatedly trying to escape, the prisoner was too weak to be beaten any more and so he was confined to a seven-by-six-foot cage for over three years.

The celebratory response to Bowe’s return to the USA was short lived as a narrative based on misinformation gained traction in the conservative media. Even his family came under attack, as his father’s long beard and speaking in Persian fuelled rumours of Islamic sympathies. “I was trying to communicate with the people holding my son. If America doesn’t understand that, then f**k them” says Bob Bergdahl, before staring down the camera lens to speak in defence of his paternal instinct to use whatever means he could to help get his son home.

Rumours of Bowe’s conversion to Islam, claims that he was responsible for the death of six fellow soldiers, and reports that he helped the Taliban attack American bases flooded the American news. “In the old days: bing bong” said the soon-to-be President, Donald Trump, as he mimed shooting a gun in front of a cheering crowd. “We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs” Bergdahl says. “The people who want to hang me — you’re never going to convince those people.

A special insight

Film-maker Sean Langan was himself held captive for four months by the same group that captured Bowe Bergdahl. He too was locked in a dark cell, interrogated and put through mock executions. With his special insight, Langan gets exclusive access to Bowe Bergdahl and to his parents, Bob and Jani. He presents a moving story about a soldier who made a mistake but who then in captivity fought his captors hard and paid a terrible price, and about a family caught in a storm of false allegations and fake news. Bowe Bergdahl, Sean Langan discovers, was a man with serious psychological issues who became a political football in a deeply divided America.

Quotes

“Coming Home: Bowe Bergdahl versus the United States (BBC4) was a film that many people could have made. Few could have brought what director Sean Langan brought to it though.” – Matt Baylis / Express

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Filmmaker shares what Bowe Bergdahl documentary is all about – External link to exclusive ‘Six On Your Side’ video interview with Sean Langan

Watch ‘The USA vs. Bergdahl’ now

You can now watch and/or buy Sean Langans’ latest film ‘The USA vs. Bergdahl’ at Journeyman Pictures, on Amazon (dotcom), and via Vimeo.

Credits

Director – Sean Langan, Producer – David Langan, Camera Operator – Sean Langan, Editor – Mark Summers, Editor – Laurence Williamson, Production Company – Pathfinder Productions Ltd.

Coming Home: Bowe Bergdahl vs the United States – Storyville / BBC Four, 2017

*Note – ‘The USA vs. Bergdahl’ is the alternative title for the original BBC4 film ‘Coming Home: Bowe Bergdahl versus the United States’