In late March, I reviewed “Fighting for Life” and now we have a second indie film about the personal cost of the war in Iraq, with the ironic and metaphorical title “Body of War,” (film website) directed and written by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro, from Mobilus Media (distributed by the Fil Sales Company, 2007, 85 min; no rating but would be R because of very sensitive medical content).
The movie tells the story of Tomas Young, who joined the Army on Sept. 13, 2001. He expected to go to Afghanistan but wound up in Iraq in a unit sent there for the first time. Soon he was shot through the clavicle and spine, and paralyzed from chest down. The film, in fact, opens with his tedious preparations of himself for the day. There are many more such scenes, and the film is painful and disturbing to watch. (To add to that, he smokes.)
He returns to Kansas City and marries. The film focuses on the challenge that his injuries would pose to having an intimate life with a partner. The medical aspects of the intimacy problems are covered in graphic detail, including catheterization. In fact, the couple eventually separates. It’s true, that our cultural climate and expressive freedom can make permanent intimacy more difficult for many couples.
Tomas speaks to a congregation at a NYC church, battling a transit strike (and clogged streets) to be driven there. When speaks he has to lean over to rest, because of dizziness and difficulty in controlling body temperature. He takes a huge array of medications. The Army gave him about four months of rehabilitation, which was much less than injured veterans used to get. Tomas notes that President Bush opposes stem cell research that could benefit him. At the end of the film, he meets with Senator Robert Byrd (D-WVa) who was one of “The Number 23” Senators who voted against going to war in Iraq.
The movie intercuts quotes, especially from October, 2002, of President Bush and various members of Congress, including Democrats, warning of mushroom clouds unless Saddam is ousted.
There is comment about this movie on another blog, here.
Update: May 30
Bill Moyers Journal on PBS showed excerpts from the film and interview Phil Donahue about the film tonight. Thomas is reported now to be in a coma because of a blot clot in his lung.