20 Aug 2014
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Rape Pervasive in Military, Scathing Film Shows

The Oscar-nominated documentary 'The Invisible War' charts the staggering, traumatic problem of rape, mostly of women, in the U.S. military.


This week, I thought I would review one of two Oscar-nominated documentaries I saw recently: The Invisible War.  Will it win on Oscar Night, February 24, 2013?  We will just have to wait and see. 

The Invisible War is a night and day difference from Searching for Sugar Man (which I reviewed last week)…in not only subject but also tone.  Sugar Man is never too deep or heavy but Invisible War is weighty right from the start…all of which is attributed to the more serious subject matter of Invisible War…serious, dark, disturbing and all too true, apparently. 

Earlier: Review of Oscar-nominated Searching for Sugar Man

That subject matter is about sexual crimes (mostly against women, but one or two male victims are interviewed as well) in the U.S. military. Not in the 1940s or 1950s but, today.  Yes, in the 21st Century. 

Apparently, this is VERY prevalent in today’s military.  Some of the statistics mentioned in this film are truly shocking.  One of the figures from the film that particularly shocked me was that it’s possible half a million women have been sexually assaulted in the history of women in the military… and since 2006, more than an estimated 95,000 service members have been sexually assaulted in the U.S. military. 

As with many non-military sexual assaults, many go unreported.  But, in the Armed Forces, that number is higher...more than 86% of service members do not report their assault. 

The documentary itself is well done and compelling, above and beyond the powerful punch it conveys.  There are many interviews with the women and men who have been assaulted while serving but also with high ranking members of the military’s branches, and even with members of supposed sexual crime prevention committees.  One woman’s story, a former Coast Guard seaman, runs throughout the entire film, linking some of the other interviews together as she fights her cause with a lawsuit that a small number of victims bring about.  All of this links together to create a powerful, emotional story about a subject that is sadly true. 

The Invisible War: 2012, not rated, 93 minutes, directed by Kirby Dick.  Nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Oscar, won Best Documentary at the Chicago Film Critics Association, won Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award for a Documentary, as well as being one of the top five documentaries honored by the National Board of Review. 

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