From the war in Iraq to internet security, Jeremy Zerechak uses documentary filmmaking to explore the issues
photography by RO B HAR DIN
by Jennifer Doyle
When Jeremy Zerechak was called to relieve the first rotation of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, he took a leave of absence from his film studies at Penn State University, packed his duffle bag with video equipment, and arrived for training at the United States Army base of Fort Dix, New Jersey, with the intention of “capturing as much content as possible.”
(Right) In addition to making documentary films, Jeremy Zerechak has donated film props to the School of Film and helped upgrade the program’s film equipment room.
His outfit eventually was placed in direct security support of the Iraq Survey Group, which was the presidentially mandated committee tasked with finding weapons of mass destruction, and stationed at Camp Slayer. This location made Zerechak and his company neighbors to two of the most contentious groups of the Iraq War: the privately contracted military company Blackwater, and Kellogg Brown & Root, the subsidiary of Haliburton contracted to oversee all base facilities in Iraq. “We were in the matrix of controversial elements of the war,” he recalls. Upon returning to Pennsylvania, he assembled the 56 hours of raw footage into a feature documentary and titled it Land of Confusion. The film chronicled the search for weapons of mass destruction from Zerechak’s “front-row seat” to the operation. The frustration and discontent in the film is palpable. Its presentation of soldiers’ candid perspectives is likely to be the last of its kind, however. Since Land of Confusion was filmed, troops have been forbidden to possess media-capturing devices on tour. Initially, the documentary triggered questions from the Pennsylvania National Guard public affairs office. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, at that time Robert Gates, had gotten wind of the film. Because Zerechak had used his own equipment, obtained releases from everyone in the film, and released it after