Saturday, December 30, 2006

Leos in Kandahar - the YouTube Phenomenon

Photo: Recovery of Canadian Sperwer Tactical Recon UAV in Afghanistan

Arguably one of the biggest stories concerning personal video in 2006 was YouTube. The growth in popularity of uploading homemade video to the Internet has been nothing short of explosive. It is the obvious creative outlet for film students and neophyte Directors who have a sound stage in the basement. YouTube is a concept that was only waiting for a convergence of technologies to really take off, not least of which is a muscular and affordable local ISP. We are there.

A huge Canadian news story this year was the strengthening of our military contribution to the war in Afghanistan, including the deployment of most of our Leopard tanks. The Leos were airlifted from Canada by chartered Ukrainian heavy-lift aircraft. We also purchased Nyala APCs from South Africa and delivered those directly to the war zone, where they have already saved Canadian soldiers from roadside car bombings. The YouTube site is filling up with amateur and professional video clips uploaded by devotees in "A-stan". One popular video clip, Leos at Kandahar, has already been viewed on YouTube over 24,000 times, which is an astonishing figure. Other clips available for download have such self explanatory titles as Tribute to Canadian Soldiers KIA in Afghanistan, and Canadian Ambushed and CF Dawn Raid on a Taliban Compound. Our troops may be motivated by esprit de corps, but clearly many Canadians are motivated by patriotism in their hunger for video of our deployed personnel and weaponry. Much helpful video sleuthing is being done by the thousands of members of another online community called MilitaryPhoto.Net. Its members inhabit most of the time zones, spotting and alerting each other within minutes of a good new video appearing on the net.

Of course the lighter side of war video is also a staple of YouTube. This genre includes many creative parodies of famous war movies. A few of those I have enjoyed include the cutesy Saving Private Lion and the extremely irreverent Apocalypse Now Recut - Fart of Darkness. I also found a buddy picture produced by a group of Swedish soldiers in a tank unit, who contributed a film called 9040 Bertil Down. It's their winter warfare parody (in Swedish) of Black Hawk Down. Unquestionably my favorite download of the year was and still remains, Alive In Joburg, Neill Blomkamp's hilarious spoof of Independence Day and the minefield of South African politics. Blomkamp is said to live here in Vancouver but his film, a sort of apprentice piece designed to showcase his CG talents, was distributed by Spy Films of Toronto. I actually get a higher quality download from the Google Video site, where it has enjoyed over 136,000 viewings, but several copies are available on the YouTube video jukebox. I seem to watch this film at least once a month because it's just such a hoot. Both movies deal with "alien" invasion. Nuff said!

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