The Invisible War

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on January 23, 2013

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Dear Jonathan Dana
Distribution Advisor

Dear Jonathan,

Who wants to watch a movie of non-stop rape confessions? It's not a very appealing prospect for any distributor, but you obviously had a plan. The end credits tell us that the U.S. Secretary of Defense saw this film and two days later, took a small first step at correcting a major flaw in the U.S. military justice system that was portrayed in the film. It's proof that the people who don't want to see this film that are probably the ones that need to see it the most. And based on some alarming stats, there are a lot of people who need to see this movie.

In The Invisible War, director Kirby Dick investigates sexual assaults in the U.S. military and reveals disturbing statistics about how many cases are outright dismissed. We're not just talking about inappropriate comments, gestures or touching, but full-on rapes that leave women shattered for the rest of their lives. Many become suicidal and most lose complete faith in the institution they entrusted with their lives. This is not subject matter that people are ever going to feel "in the mood" to watch, so you had your work cut out for you.

The film opens with a classy intro weaving together the feel-good images of women joining the armed forces after the Second World War and gradually finding their places in the ranks. This optimism is then shattered by a chat roulette of confessions by women (and a man) who describe incidents in which they became victims of fellow soldiers they once considered "brothers." One woman explains being sent down "the gauntlet," a hallway of up to 200 intoxicated men who had their way with her. It's not a pretty picture, and at least the audience is spared from any re-enactments. Because again, who would want to see this?

About halfway through the film, the story changes from a series of talking heads to follow a few former soldiers trying to take legal action. Coast Guard veteran Seaman Kori Cioca first tries to claim personal medical damages and then joins a class action lawsuit against the Army. The film doesn't invest much time in these pursuits (no doubt knowing there's no simple solution), but at least this offers the film, and the victims, some forward momentum.

The real boost, however, is likely to come from reactions to the film. Based on the film's Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary, you knew exactly who to show this film to so that it would get noticed. The Academy does tend to love activist films, so I hope making the problem visible leads to serious reforms. I do feel like the subject is now a little more real to me, even if I'm not a very big fan of the pacing and perfunctory approach of the film itself.

Then again I'm not your target audience, which I'm sure you'd agree is a good thing.

Showing moral support,


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