Former Marine’s Graphic Documentary on War Prompts Investigation by the Navy

Ex-combat cameraman uses raw deployment footage to show audiences unsanitized reality of battle.

A documentary explores the life of Marines deployed to Kajaki, like those seen here. (Marines in this picture are not featured in documentary). (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Getty Images

As a marine combat cameraman, Lance Cpl. Jacob Miles Lagoze could access  war zones that professional journalists rarely see. As part of his job, he gathered footage for historical documentation. But Lagoze was also charged with portraying the war, and the American soldiers fighting it, in a certain flattering light. Years later, after he left the Corps and enrolled in Columbia University’s film program, he started to look back at the hours of footage he’d left out. He spent two years putting it all back together for an hour-long documentary called Combat Obscura. It offers a raw, visceral and candid portrayal of what life is actually like for the Marines and sailors Lagoze lived with. There is no clear narrative or voiceover explaining anything, it is just unfiltered footage.

Lagoze knows that the release of the footage will anger the Corps and maybe even some of the people he served with, but he told Task & Purpose that exposing the reality of that war is “worth the risk.” Lagoze is already facing a few issues: The Navy is currently conducting an investigation into the documentary over concerns about criminal activity it depicts—one scene shows marines smoking from a bong fashioned out of a Pringles can—and the Marine Corps is trying to decide if it controls the rights to any of the footage. According to Task & Purpose, the documentary is one of the most genuine looks at the war, and has moments of extreme honesty, sadness, humor, confusion, rebellion and boredom.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.