When I first grabbed a copy of Worse Than War out of the stacks for review, I assumed, just based on the title, that it was a Black Eyed Peas concert DVD, or perhaps a sequel to Inbred Redneck Vampires. Whoops, my bad. It’s actually a sobering look at the history and causes of ethnic cleansing (the gut-punch subtitle is “Genocide, Eliminationalism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity”), which touches on religion, skin color and our all-too-human tendency to only care about those who (most outwardly) look like us, but also spends a bit of time digging deeper into the human psyche, and examining the parts of us that seem driven to try to eradicate others from the face of the Earth.
Running just under two hours, director Mike DeWitt’s adaptation of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s book of the same name manages to be at once a personal exploration of the horrors of genocide, while also a more academically-inflected disquisition on the nature of ethnic cleansing and large-scale mass murder. Documenting Goldhagen’s travels, teachings, discussions and opinions, Worse Than War offers insights into genocide’s dimensions, causes and patterns — and the ongoing role it plays in politics and human affairs. What makes the movie — what truly gives it its emotional punch — is its broad scope, and range of interviewees. Goldhagen speaks with victims, perpetrators, witnesses, politicians, diplomats, historians, humanitarian aid workers and journalists, all with the purpose of understanding and explaining the critical features of genocide, and how it might be prevented and stopped.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, Worse Than War comes to DVD presented in 16×9 widescreen, with an English language stereo track. Its sole bonus feature, apart from a menu screen touting PBS’ web site, is an extended interview chat with author Goldhagen on the making of the film, and what first sparked him to pen his book. To purchase the DVD, phone (800) PLAY-PBS, or simply click here. Or, if Amazon is totally your thing, click here to purchase. B+ (Movie) C+ (Disc)