Dead man talking

When Mark Twain wrote “The War Prayer” in 1904, his publisher rejected it. Americans were sensitive to the charge that their troops were locked in a bloody nightmare overseas in the Philippines, spawned by their leaders’ hubris and fueled by the word “patriotism.” Now an animated version of “The War Prayer” is taking YouTube by storm, giving Twain’s poem a fresh, resonating life in our current political climate.

Produced by Sacramento’s Markos Kounalakis, “The War Prayer” stars the voices of Emmy-award winning actor Peter Coyote and San Francisco poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. To date it’s attracted nearly 5,000 viewers. In concert with Twain’s poem, Kounalakis’ ominous creation blurs the line between kneeling at the altar of God and kneeling at the altar of national superbia. The more the film’s characters pray for a war victory—God’s blessing in violence—the more the animation darkens.

“Given what’s happening now in Iraq, I hope this film causes people to pause and reflect on their own beliefs,” said Kounalakis, who’s also a war correspondent for the L.A. Times. “What’s so poignant about Twain’s words is they force us to question how we approach God when we ask him to take sides in a violent conflict. I’m glad the film’s being so embraced. I’m also glad to be hearing from religious people who agree with its message.”

View the full movie at