Female soldiers are no strangers to the frontlines, but the U.S. Army has just made it legal for them to serve in combat positions. Last month, the Pentagon repealed a 1994 law that barred women from infantry, armor, and artillery roles. But for decades, female soldiers have worked in the line of fire as medics, military photographers, and intelligence officers attached to combat troops. They have lost limbs and more than 100 have died in Iraq.
Two recent ITVS-funded documentaries show the harsh realities of female soldiers: Lioness and 2013 Oscar-nominee The Invisible War. Lioness spotlights women on the frontlines through a fearless team of female soldiers in Iraq — Team Lioness. During patrols, they calmed women and children in distress and ensured the cultural appropriateness of soldiers’ body searches.
In response to the lifting of the ban, Lioness directors Daria Sommers and Meg McLagan wrote via email: “It’s about time. Bringing policy in line with the reality of what servicewomen have been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is key to achieving gender equity in the military…This in turn paves the way for women to crack the brass ceiling. Who knows? At some future date, when the Joint Chiefs sit down to advise the White House, one of them could be a woman.”
The Invisible War shows a different kind of fallout female soldiers have endured: rape in the military. More than 20 percent of female veterans have been sexually assaulted, according to the documentary. The film has already changed national policy. After watching The Invisible War, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta transferred the power to prosecute sexual assault from the level of unit commander to colonel. Continue reading →
Currently airing on public television nationwide,This Is Where We Take Our Stand documents an unprecedented 2008 conference of veterans and active-duty soldiers called Winter Solider. Inspired by the 1971 conference of the same name, the four days of heartbreaking testimony revealed why many veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars concluded that their mission was unjust. ITVS’s Kate Sullivan Green spoke with Director/Producers David Zeiger and Bestor Cram about the film and its relevancy today.
This is Where We Take Our Stand is currently airing on public television
Your film takes place around the Winter Solider event in March of 2008. What drew youto this subject?
DAVID ZEIGER: I made a film in 2005 called Sir! No Sir! that told the story of the G.I. movement against the war in Vietnam. This was a story that had been deeply suppressed in history and in the American psyche and had been replaced with a whole mythology that said that during the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement had targeted soldiers and basically was a movement against the people who fought the war. This was of course symbolized most visibly by the myth of solders being spat on when they returned. Continue reading →
The documentary, by filmmakers Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers, takes an intimate look at war through the eyes of women on the front lines and the U.S. military policy that bans them from combat. Lioness will air Thursday as part of an encore presentation on Independent Lens.
How did five female Army support soldiers — mechanics, supply clerks and engineers — end up fighting alongside the Marines in some of the bloodiest counterinsurgency battles of the Iraq War? Directors Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers give an intimate look at war through the eyes of the first women in U.S. history sent into direct ground combat, despite a policy that bans them from doing so.
Through harrowing personal stories, these women candidly share their experiences in Iraq as well as from their lives back home to form a portrait of the emotional and psychological effects of war. Watch the trailer for Lioness after the jump. Continue reading →
ITVS-funded Ask Notby Johnny Symons was honored for Outstanding Documentary at the GLAAD Media Awards earlier this month in San Francisco. Ask Not originally aired in June 2009 on Independent Lens.
Equally important is the attention such an award will draw to the national debate over Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT.) The film explores the genesis of that policy from its inception under then-President Clinton in 1993.
Ask Not sheds light on how DADT has prevented some of America’s most talented recruits from serving their country. Examples include skilled Arabic translators so desperately needed in Afghanistan and Iraq combat, ordered to be silent and celibate or else be removed from duty.
“This was a fun award to receive and a great acknowledgment of the film and the issue,” said Symons.
The hype around Ask Not could not come at a more relevant time. At his State of the Union address this past January, President Obama vowed to repeal DADT during his first term. Soon after, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm Mike Mullen also denounced the policy before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“With brave and brutal honesty, [Filmmaker Monika] Navarro, 31, turns the camera on her own clan as she explores a family history that embodies the best and worst of the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico.”
- Hispanic Magazine
Augie and Gino were living the American dream — raised and educated in the United States and proud veterans of the U.S. military. But in 1999, these two brothers were forced to leave the only country they’d ever known and had pledged to protect. Follow filmmaker Monika Navarro on her familial journey to Mexico as she pieces together the tragic events of her uncles’ deportation and opens a Pandora’s box of family secrets.
Augie and Gino were living the American dream –– raised and educated in the United States and proud veterans of the military. But in 1999, these two brothers were forced to leave the only country they’d ever known and had pledged to protect. Airing next Tuesday, March 23 at 10:00 PM on Independent Lens on PBS, filmmaker Monika Navarro goes on a journey across the border to Mexico to piece together the tragic events of her uncles’ deportation and opens a Pandora’s box of family secrets.
Watch this exclusive behind-the-scenes video from Lost Souls (Animas Perdidas) in which Navarro explains the deeper themes of her film, including shifting definitions of “home” and “truth” in a family affected by addiction and deportation.
“It’s really a personal story not a political one. That goes for the greeters themselves as well. They have different views on the war, but their
main goal is to support the troops.”
— Aron Gaudet, director, THE WAY WE GET BY
On call for the past six years, a group of senior citizens have made history by greeting nearly one million U.S. troops at a tiny airport in Maine. THE WAY WE GET BY, an ITVS-funded documentary that aired last night on P.O.V., tells their uplifting and emotional journey and demonstrates the meaning of community at a time when America needs it most.
Inspired by the film, Returning Home is a new interactive website that seeks to ensure that American soldiers, both newly returned and those whose service ended many years ago, are not forgotten. Returning Home provides a place to share thoughts, photos, video or audio and to find support. Like the Maine troop greeters featured in the film, the site will honor American soldiers as they return from duty, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“If you watch/record one thing this evening, I strongly recommendTHE WAY WE GET BY, Aron Gaudet’s moving documentary…”
- USA Today
On call 24/7 for the past six years, three senior citizens have made history by greeting nearly one million U.S. troops at a tiny airport in Maine. Filled with unexpected turns, THE WAY WE GET BY tells their uplifting and emotional journey and demonstrates the meaning of community at a time when America needs it most.