Friday, June 27, 2008

Iraq War Veterans Film

I was fortunate enough this week to attend a screening of the new documentary film ALL THE WAY HOME. Sponsored as a benefit for the National Veterans Foundation, the film is a poignant and poetic work about what returning war vets are going through.
Filmmaker Edward Nachtrieb avoids the typical images of wartime chaos - no smash cuts to exploding Humvees or frightened Iraqi families hovering in their homes during military searches. This isn't a war film. It's a post-war therapy session.

The film's inspiration is Montana fishing guide Mike Geary, who, with the help of volunteers, hosts trips down the Smith River for recovering wounded soldiers. It is in this pristine setting, away from their daily lives, that these vets can open up with each other about the challenge of their experiences and injuries. The contrast between the topic of discussion and the beautiful surroundings is striking in how effective the two work together in the film.

One of the schisms that occurs during wartime is the obvious lack of shared experience between soldiers and civilians. With all the talk and posturing stateside, regular citizens have no idea what soldiers have been through. Soldiers are keenly aware of this and are more comfortable opening up with each other. Unfortunately, non-soldiers, sensing the guardedness, are often reluctant to discuss these subjects with returning vets for fear of prying where they may not be welcome.

ALL THE WAY HOME throws a much needed rope across this chasm.
Strung together with a series of moving interviews, the film becomes a conversation many of us never get the chance to have - and a tool for these soldiers to help them heal. The work transcends filmmaking and serves effectively as a community service. Some soldiers in the film have used the film to approach the subject with members of their own families.

The film is not yet in distribution, but a screening for the U.S. Congress has been arranged for next week, and I'm sure these representatives will be quite moved by it.
Judging by the positive response at the film's premiere, one can only hope that the film will reach as many people as possible.
Information about ALL THE WAY HOME can be found at the film's official website here.