The invisible war: a movie review

The Invisible War is a new film worth your attention. The premise is simple: The US Military has been opened up to include women soldiers and a serious epidemic of rape can be found there. Any complaints to officials in charge prove that the patriarchy doesn’t appreciate feedback.

This documentary by Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick plays well, and even has a narrative feature device in the opening twenty minutes. Slick television ads segue into glorious images of flags and military weaponry, that come across the screen as in a procession before top brass. In likewise pace the viewer is introduced to a half dozen women subjects (one male) and rough sketches of their biographies. Women Soldiers like Kori Cioca believed in the integrity of the military and sought to find there a life of duty and a future. Then suddenly their stories recount the transgression they received while in the hands of the various branches of the service. This is the first of a series of shocks to come for the 97 minute running time. There was even a couple sitting behind me that would occasionally go into vocal shock as the content gave the brutal truth in dismal details. I would guess we all knew what we were paying for. I for one follow activist news a lot and also study horror movies — deadening my vocal chords to atrocities reflected on a screen. Most mainstream people though will be like my friends in the theatre, and have a response that will resemble being slapped with cold water.

I had the occasion to absorb this new work at a benefit for Bay Area Women Against Rape at the Elmwood Theatre in a well to do part of Berkeley. Sadly the attendance was less than a dozen people — but the door price and the cost of resources to get us there was worth it. Seeing these ex-soldiers who were enticed, abused and thrown away on a screen twenty feet tall made for a brave show. It’s vital for the community to come together and give space to witness what is being hidden. The movie also briefly goes into the issue of man-on-man rape.

There are several scenes when the government takes the stage as it sings and dances around any accountability. Instead of punishing offenders with any kind of substance, such glib displays of reform can be seen with the info commercials the military has produced to silence complaints. The commercials are directed at potential victims (not potential perpetrators) to do shit like not walk alone at night, don’t get drunk and other such magic tricks.

I wish the film did more to indict the military, war culture, and the indoctrination that happens here in America into a competitive frame of life. Let’s face it — the American military encourages soldiers to kill, torture, abuse and rape. It actually does not matter if the target is a frail person with a foreign tongue and different tint of skin, or even a fellow soldier. In fact what is imperative to the Military mind is that the soldier follow instructions — to kill on command. This film’s distribution in places like NetFlix substantiates the feeling I get that it will play with less currency in radical spaces working to destroy the present system. Its greatest impact can be counted on in the quiet and clean living rooms of Middle America. Radicals can visit their parents and view it after a well-meaning (but heated) discussion on topics around the military during dinner. Then perhaps Americans can be persuaded to question the machine that we’ve been suckered into maintaining — to our own visible detriment.

Ex-Soldier Kori Cioca gets lots of screen time in physical pain left over from her assault. To add insult to injury she spends countless hours to get the coveted government assistance — only to be denied. The film did inspire some policy changes once it was screened to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. May be films like this is what’s needed to get more people angry to challenge the current practice of military affairs since real change happens in people’s hearts first. But I’m a little afraid of the blowback to this kind of public disclosure. The war pigs seem to like to employ intimidation and faceless harassment of dissidents. The film never names the names of offenders but the victims are open for scrutiny — or in our case hope.

Director Kirby Dick already did a great Doc exposing the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) with his This Film Is Not Yet Rated. This agency was created shortly after John F. Kennedy’s murder (headed by a man who’s in the photo with Johnson as he was being sworn in on the plane) with practices that make it resemble a cabal. That Doc goes into the make up of the MPAA and how they are a self-appointed unaccountable people with a Republican, Christian bent. It also catalogs their harsh ratings over sex in films (as opposed to violence) and a tendency to be favorable to major studios productions over independents. All of this ultimately affects where films are exhibited. Anyways my point is that one could make an argument that the MPAA acts as an arm of propaganda and censorship in this country. Squashing voices of dissent often gets credited to exist rampantly in dictatorships — except it’s being done here in a way that’s invisible to the people star gazing at the flag. But there is also a behavior being subtly promoted that is confusing sex for violence.

The news emerging as we go to print is of similar rape epidemics and cover-ups happening in the Peace Corps as well as at Occidental College in Southern California. Even the head of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention unit, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, was arrested for sexual assault of a civilian. For anyone really watching what’s going on they know that patriarchical organizations like the US military operate with as much as a put-on as a Hollywood movie. (robber eggplant)