April 15, 2013

In The Invisible War, a Fight for Dignity

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Describing Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War, Jonathan Han of the Los Angeles Review of Books wrote, “There are some works of writing or painting, speech, or film that do more than just stand as great works of art. They change things. The Invisible War belongs in that pantheon, and is easily one of the most important films of the year.”

When one thinks of a documentary, more often than not, she envisions a mundane series of black and white clips, deadpan interviews with high-brows and a monotonous voice-over. It takes great skill to create a documentary film that evokes immense sentiment and gains popularity among its viewers. The Invisible War breaks through the shackles that often restrain the documentary film industry and serious art. The film provides a bold and coherent perspective on women in the military which resonates through the plot written and directed by Kirby Dick.

The film deals with sexual assault in the U.S military and the deplorable lack of sensitivity toward its survivors. The Invisible War consists of a series of interviews with survivors of sexual assault in the ranks of defense forces, military personnel and members of Congress. It follows the crusade by an incredible group of women against the flaws of the U.S Department of Defense which finally culminates with a legal suit against the department. The most harrowing stories are those told by Coast Guard veteran Kori Cioca, who was brutally assaulted by her supervisor. She did not report the rape at first, but asked for medical allowances as her jaw had been invariably disfigured. She was denied these allowances and, in fact, her pay was reduced.

There were a shocking number of instances of these atrocities: The revered Iraq veteran Lt. Ariana Klay was similarly subjected to unpardonable treatment by her supervisor. The film unravels the Tailhook Scandal and the Aberdeen Scandal and, in the process, reveals the uncomfortable truth that gross biases exist within the army, Air Force and Navy ranks. An epidemic of sexual abuse exists in the defense forces.

The film premiered for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 and received the U.S Best Documentary Audience Award. It was also nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards. The film progresses through clean, crisp frames and is a montage so powerful that two days after Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta saw the film, he decided to address the ugly truth that the film had revealed. As a result, a special committee has been established to look into the matter, do away with obsolete policies and make the required amendments.

This movie is not a rant against the military; it simply brings the stories of some of the bravest American women to light and advocates for the respect and honor their magnanimous courage deserves. These women define courage as ‘grace under pressure.’ This movie is a phenomenal work of art, and a milestone for the art of filmmaking.

Original Author: Aditi Bhowmick