‘The Tillman Story’ Loses Its Fight Against MPAA’s ‘R’ Rating

by | August 12, 2010 at 5:25 PM | The Movies

The Tillman family has been stymied again by a governing body while trying to get the truth out about what happened to their son.

The Tillman Story, a documentary about the life and death of Pat Tillman which details how the United States government lied about how the ex-NFL star died in Afghanistan to use him as a propaganda tool, has been branded with an ‘R’ rating, and The Weinstein Company has just lost their appeal to get it down to a PG-13.


‘Excessive language’ is the reason cited for the rating, and it’s true that there’s no shortage of f-bombs in the film – one of the few moments of levity in the movie details how the Tillman boys have been fans of profanity since they were kids. However, the language is absolutely necessary to accurately detail the tragic events of April 22, 2004, when he shouted his last words while trying to get his own troops to stop shooting at him, yelling “I’m Pat F–ing Tillman!”

“The language in this film is not gratuitous,” said director Amir Bar-Lev. “I think this is how many people would react when faced with the unthinkable. Giving this film an ‘R’ rating prevents young people from seeing this film; the very people who should be exposed to a great American like Pat Tillman.”

The documentary shows how the Tillman family, through the extraordinary efforts of the matriarch Dannie Tillman to un-redact all the files in the flood of paperwork they were given, persevered to try and expose the fact that the Bush administration covered up the truth about what happened to Pat Tillman because they didn’t want such an unfavorable depiction of the war to become public. They managed to get a congressional hearing on the matter, but unfortuantely, the Congress was hearing but not listening.

“Of course there is excessive language,” said producer John Battsek. “This is a film that follows a truly exemplary family torn apart by the death of their loved one and the barrage of government deceit they encountered in their pursuit of the honest truth. We should be looking at this film as a way to show our younger generation the power of true family values and the sometimes unfortunate failings of our government.”

If nothing else, this film is a must-see to get a sense of how interesting, thoughtful, honest and forthright a guy Pat Tillman really was, which is in stark contrast to watching guys like Donald Rumsfeld cheerfully walk away from the hearing after fumbling through his testimony, which consisted of little more than his constant refrain of “I don’t recall.”

“This is one of the most important films I’ve distributed in my career” Harvey Weinstein said in a press release, “and I want my teenage daughter, and the nation’s young adults to be able to watch Pat’s story. We need to learn from this story and limiting who can see it is not the answer.”

It’s just sad that teenagers, who are usually very familiar with every dirty word in the English language, will not have The Tillman Story readily available to them. Then again, an R rating usually makes teenagers more interested in seeing a film, so perhaps it will work out in the end.