Combustible Celluloid
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With: Helen Benedict, Anu Bhagwati, Susan Burke, Kori Cioca, Susan Davis, Elle Helmer, Amy Herdy, Mary Kay Hertog, Jessica Hinves, Anthony Kurta, Rob McDonald, Stace Nelson, Loretta Sanchez, Hannah Sewell, Jackie Speier
Written by: Kirby Dick
Directed by: Kirby Dick
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 93
Date: 01/20/2012

The Invisible War (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Military Violations

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Kirby Dick's newest documentary, The Invisible War, tells the harrowing, infuriating story of rape in the military. According to Dick's findings, it's more than twice as likely for a woman -- or even a man -- to be raped in the military than in civilian life. And the system is set up so that the victims have little or no recourse. Usually if the victims come forward, they receive the punishment, and the perpetrators -- often superior officers -- receive nothing. In more than one case, if the attacker is married, and the victim is not, the victim is charged with adultery. The military view is that, if you have been raped, you were probably "asking for it."

Dick interviews several actual victims, who are all suffering from depression and anxiety, and most have tried or considered suicide. The movie's most striking character, Kori Cioca, who is a pretty, petit former Coast Guard seaman, has trouble with nerve damage in her face; she can't chew and can only eat soft foods. Her battle is to get the military to acknowledge her story so that she can get the care that she needs, and deserves. Dick's camera spends the most time with Kori, her caring, distraught husband, and their little daughter.

All this stuff is powerful and undisputable. And in making a film about it, Dick has brought it to the attention of more people, which means these crimes could, and should, be tolerated less. But then we have the question of the style of the film itself, which is arguably the most pedestrian that Dick -- whose other films include Twist of Faith, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, and Outrage -- has yet made. It's made up of all the usual documentary techniques, borrowed from a thousand films: talking heads, text cards, and "where are they now" titles at the end. Very little of it feels personal or organic; it all feels outraged, which is a difficult stance to take if you want people to listen. Although, honestly, I'm not sure how else this kind of subject should have been handled.

Docurama has released a new DVD, with a commentary track by director Dick and produce Amy Ziering. Extras include extended interviews, footage from the Sundance film festival, a deleted scene, and further information for viewers. I'd perhaps first recommend this to any young women out there who were thinking about joining any branch of the military -- or their parents -- not necessarily to persuade them, but simply to educate them.
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