Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

FILM: Human Terrain

Saturday, May 29, 2010

4:15 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.

Avon Cinema, 260 Thayer Street

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The Providence premiere of the documentary Human Terrain is taking place during Brown’s 2010 commencement weekend. 

Winner of the Audience Award at Italy’s prestigious Festival dei Popoli and an official selection of the recent Hot Docs festival in Toronto, Human Terrain breaks open the simmering debate over the military’s “Human Terrain System” – a program to embed anthropologists and other social scientists with combat troops to increase their understanding of local cultures, civilians, and fighters. 

The film travels from war games in the Mojave Desert where Marines learn “cultural awareness,” to urban warfare training exercises in Quantico, Virginia, and to the “graduate school” of counterinsurgency, the Human Terrain System in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Along the way, Human Terrain tracks a rising insurgency at home, among academics and in the press, about the ethics and efficacy of the new strategy. The documentary takes a tragic turn when an early collaborator on the film, Michael Vinay Bhatia ‘99, joins a Human Terrain Team and is killed in 2008 by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. 

Human Terrain will be screened on Saturday, May 29, at 4:15pm at the Avon Cinema, 260 Thayer Street, Providence. Tickets are $7.50. A Q&A will follow with the co-directors: Watson Institute Professor James Der Derian, David Udris ’90, and Michael Udris ’91. 

Proceeds from the film will go to the Michael Bhatia Memorial Fund at Brown, which will help underwrite travel by undergraduate students who, like Michael, hope to deepen their understanding of a region or culture by traveling and studying there, with the ultimate goal of helping to promote cross-cultural understanding that might end or avert violence or military conflict.