Saturday, May 11, 2013

GI Film Festival shorts block: "Do Tell", "War Bride", "Home from War", and "Choice" all shine

On Friday, May 10, 2013, I did attend one session ("block") of short films (“After Dark”) for the GI Film Festival for 2013, called GIFF13, about members of the US Armed Forces.  The link is here.  The screening took place at the AMC Shirlington Theater in Arlington VA, and was about one-third full in a large auditorium. “GI”, remember, stands for “government tissue”. 
The first film, “Choice”, directed by Michael Chan, is the longest at 27 min.  A 17-year-old  high school senior, having been arrested for fighting, decides to reinvent himself and enlist in the Marine Corps.  He faces some hurdles, first of all, his parents. “We don’t take applications; we take commitment”.  The boy’s motivation is set in motion when he and some other kids see the 9/11 attacks from across the river in New Jersey. 

When I was going through the draft during the Vietnam era, there was a slogan “Choice, not chance,  in today’s action Army.”  That referred to the idea that you could choose your MOS if you enlisted for three years.  If you got drafted, there was a “95% chance”, according to one recruiter, that you would get infantry.  I pulled a trick and “enlisted” for two years just before the draft date, and got a safe assignment because of my degrees anyway.
I’ll cover the last film next. It was “Do Tell”, directed by Noah DeBomis (20 min).  A number of airmen stationed at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan talk about their experience under the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, and trace the history through the final repeal, officially on Sept. 20, 2011.  The film opens with an excerpt from Bill Clinton’s July 19, 1993 speech at Fr. McNair (Washington DC) where the president says “an open statement by a member of the Armed Forces that he or she is a homosexual will create a rebuttable presumption that he or she actually engages in prohibited conduct.”  I’m having trouble finding the original text; it used to be on Stanford’s site but seems to have been removed. Maybe it will be at the Clinton library in Arkansas.  The closest I can find right now is on the Human Rights Watch site here
The third film, the lighthearted “Best of Both Worlds” (13 min), by Michael Dunker, presents a military veteran or soldier with a girl friend who changes into a male (as after a sex-change) sporadically, and then changes back.  So two of the six films dealt with LGBT issues in the military.
The fifth film, “War Bride” (16 min), by Angela Liu, presents a solder, suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) returning to his wife, and having difficulties with the most intimate aspects of his marriage.  He encounters both impotence and an urge to violence.  It seems, when you put all this together, that much of the “military gay ban” was indirectly about the ability of straight soldiers to protect not only their unit cohesion (which is a lot more than privacy), but also their continued ability to perform heterosexually after sacrifice.  This was an offering to maintain heterosexual passion.
The fourth film, “Home from War” (15 min), bu Johnathan Dillon, two female amputees, returning home, meet at the Army hospital in Landsthul, Germany.  They converse with their loved ones in the US, and realize the enormity of getting their husbands or loved ones to accept them physically. The end of the film mentions suicide by veterans for this reason. Somehow, this film reminded me of Josh Groban's two passionate songs, "The War at Home" and more recently "Brave".  
The second film, “Towing” (14 min), by Wenhaw Ts’ao,  has a female soldier encountering a district attorney who has struck a dog while driving recklessly, leading to a moral confrontation.  

There was a QA after the screening (which started at 10 PM).
There is a one hour documentary “Do Ask Do Tell” (April 2012)  on YouTube by Ali Sue, which is a “series of video clips” about the “don’t ask don’t’ tell” policy and its history. I will watch this soon and review it in a separate posting.  I appears that it will also deal with DOMA and Prop 8, but I’ll have to check.

I could not find “Do Tell” on YouTube, but I recommend that viewers keep looking (or check Logo). 
Check also the documentary “Tell” (a feature), Jan. 30, 2009 on this blog.  And check all the films under the Blogger label “DADT”.  

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