Thursday, June 21, 2012

“The Invisible War” – Movie Review




This week in my movie class, we saw the documentary “The Invisible War”, about rape in the United States military.


Despite a regimented life with structure, obscure rules and a sometimes mind-numbing host of regulations, the United States military has the rather disturbing history of turning a blind eye to accusations of rape within their ranks. Even though fellow soldiers may be sent on missions that may call upon them to risk their life, the safety and well-being of a significant segment of their population have been treated with an unexplainable and unforgiveable disregard when it comes to reports of rape, a criminal act steadily on the increase over the years in all branches of the military. The trust that is necessary to exist between soldiers and their commanders has been violated, along with the victims themselves.

The army, navy, coast guard, air force and marines are all culpable in this disgrace. Statistics stat that a large number of these crimes go unreported, either out of fear or shame or the fact that the rapist is a friend of the commander to whom the rape must be reported – in some cases, the rapes aren’t reported to the commander because it is the commander himself who committed the act. Discouragingly, even when the women have enough courage to report the crime, very little good comes as a result; few are prosecuted and in the rare event someone is found guilty, they receive nothing more than a mere slap on the wrist.

Among the stories that are told include that of a young woman, now married and with a daughter of her own, who was so violently beaten in the course of her sexual assault that her jaw was broken; following a long delay in a bloated government bureaucracy, the Veterans Administration has refused to honor her claim for medical coverage. Additionally, the stories of several men are told – heterosexuals who were raped by other presumably straight military men. Ultimately, the military is seen to be as misogynistic as The Taliban, with the philosophy that for women, rape should be considered nothing more than an occupational hazard as a consequence of their loyal service.


If you are one of those people who holds the entire United States military in high esteem and believe them to be the greatest in the world, seeing the documentary, “The Invisible War” might well permanently alter your perception. While it could be argued that the offenses and their perpetrators may be in the minority, the true problem lies at the top because those in charge are the ones responsible for trivializing the crime, if not sweeping it under the rug altogether – effectively raping the victims yet again; officers in the military are complicit in the crime, as if they had committed it themselves – which in some cases, they did.

While this is an important story that should be seen whether or not you are or know someone in the military, there are some problems with the presentation of the information. For one thing, there is a dizzying array of talking heads – you almost get the sense that the filmmakers were aware of this themselves because every time a subject matter expert was on camera, their name and title almost always appeared in graphic at the bottom of the screen, even though they had previously appeared at least once already in the documentary. Likewise, the viewer is frequently bombarded with an almost overwhelming combination of statistics; while the filmmakers clearly did their research, it can be demanding for the viewer to process the data and after a while, many of the figures become a blur.

Prior to screening this film, our instructor interviewed two of the filmmakers, Producer Amy Ziering and Director Kirby Dick. They said that while getting people to go on screen to discuss their rape was challenging, they wound up finding so many victims willing to come forward that they had to winnow down the number of people they would interview – and from there, further reduce the number who would actually make it into the final cut of the documentary. Their work on the “Invisible War” from beginning to end was almost two years; the director and the producer took turns interviewing the various subjects in the movie.





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