‘the Card Counter’ May Remind US Soldiers of Afghanistan Withdrawal, Director Says

  • Paul Schrader said the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was “a long time coming.” 
  • The director spoke about the links between his new film and the withdrawal at the Venice Film Festival.
  • “It shouldn’t be a surprise that our exceptionalism in the world really wasn’t that exceptional,” he said.

Veteran filmmaker Paul Schrader told Insider that the decline of US military and political influence following the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan was “a long time coming” at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday. 

On Thursday, Schrader debuted his new film, “The Card Counter,” which stars Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish. It follows the story of an ex-US military interrogator, who now lives under the radar as a low-stakes gambler.

Throughout the film, there are several flashbacks that depict the torture and violence against inmates by US officers at Abu Ghraib — the prison just outside of Baghdad, which served as a US detention center for captured Iraqis during the Iraq War and became infamous in 2004 after photos were released of US soldiers torturing detainees.

When asked during a press conference about the link between “The Card Counter” and the recent exodus of Western countries, including the US, from Afghanistan, Schrader was candid.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise that our exceptionalism in the world really wasn’t that exceptional,” he said.

Although Schrader was resistant to elaborate further on the connection between his film and the larger political context, he continued: “The moment you start saying a film is about these kinds of things, you lose your anchor. You can’t get too hung up on making a big statement. Make a small statement, let others make big statements.”

A picture of the cast of "The Card Counter" with Paul Schrader at the Venice film festival.

The cast of “The Card Counter” with Paul Schrader at the Venice film festival.

Daniele Venturelli/WireImage

Later during the press conference when asked about the themes of military service and memory, which run through his film, Schrader said that “I’m sure for these US soldiers who were at the airport in the last 10 days, they are going to have some memories and we’re going to be hearing about them for the next 10 to 20 years.”

The last US military planes left Afghanistan earlier this week, marking an end to America’s presence in the country after roughly two decades of war, Insider reported.

The Biden administration had set an August 31 deadline to complete the US military withdrawal and subsequent evacuations. Despite widespread criticism of the speed and nature of the US’s departure, President Biden defended his decision and said the withdrawal was an “extraordinary success” in a speech following the last flight from Kabul. 

“My fellow Americans: The war in Afghanistan is now over. I’m the fourth president who has faced the issue of whether and when to end this war,” he said. “I refused to send another generation of America’s sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago.”

“The Card Counter” hits theaters September 10.

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