Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Kirby Dick's doc THE INVISIBLE WAR--about rape in and by our military--could turn you into an angry, determined activist

You don't have to be a woman, a feminist or anti-military to have the content of Kirby Dick's new documentary, THE INVISIBLE WAR, knock you for a loop. I suspect the only requirements might be that you are neither a narcissist nor a rapist. By content, I do not mean the rapes themselves. We get no re-enactments here, and as horrible an experience as a rape must be (in one case, the physical abuse preceding it has left the woman with permanent face, neck and head injuries), the event itself pales in comparison with the disgusting, immoral and unjust treatment these women -- and, yes, raped men -- have received time and again at the hands of the U.S. Military.

It is this "abuse" from the military that makes Mr. Dick's film such a stunner (the director is shown at right), and one that is bound to raise the ire of -- not just viewers but the military itself. At this point in time there have been plenty of other documen-taries about how our military has betrayed American servicemen (and women) in every manner -- from not supplying then with proper protection during our most recent (and either unnecessary or poorly handled) misad-ventures in the middle east to not providing returning vets with the help and care they need. Now comes this latest and surprisingly quiet but nonetheless sca-thing indictment that should bring to mind that ever-green truism that military justice is to justice what military music is to music.

Dick has organized his film so that, as we get the individual stories of these women (and one man) and their rapes, we also learn a short history of women in the military, the statistics on rape, and in particular some interesting material on rapists themselves, their modus operandi -- and why the military is such a target-rich environment for sexual predators.

As Dick takes us back to the Tailhook and other military scandals, it is difficult not to see how similar all this is to sex abuse scandals that have plagued for decades (and continue to pop up with alarming regularity) The Catholic Church, as well as educational institutions (the Sandusky case now playing out on national TV). Power congregates, then corrupts, and then abuses. And it never takes well to underlings pointing this out.

As these women's and one man's (shown at right) stories are told, you'll be struck again and again with how difficult it must have been to relive all this -- and then to lay it out in public. "When the tests and report came back, I had trichinosis and gonorrhea and I was pregnant," one woman tells us. "But as bad as it was being raped, as bad or worse was the reaction of the military to the report."  As case after case is turned a blind eye by the military, your blood pressure will increase accordingly. And one of the insurmountable problems these women encounter is that, in many cases, the rapist is a friend of the officer to whom they must report -- or worse, that officer himself.

As we're told by the women and the lawyers who are working for them, when rape happens in the non-military world, one goes to the police -- who usually have no vested interest in the case -- and it is handled. In the military, there is always vested interested, and it is in the military's best interests that the case simply go away. This is why there is now a movement afoot to change the rules so that the military is not allowed to try these cases.

In one of the saddest scenes in the film, in a restaurant, one of the rape victims encounters a female restaurant worker about to join the military. She cautions her against it, but is met with the expected resistance. Our ex-soldier can't possibly, in the few seconds of time remaining, tell the girl the whole truth of why she is so concerned, and the scene takes on a terrible poignancy and sadness. After you've seen this film, you'll want to caution every young man and woman you know to think again before committing to American military service -- in which recruits both male and female remain, as ever, nothing more than cannon fodder in battles abroad, and increasingly, at home.

After playing the current Human Rights Watch Film Festival, The Invisible War will open this Friday, June 22, in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and DC, and then spread elsewhere across the country in the weeks to come. To see all currently scheduled playdates, with cities and theaters, click here.

No comments: