The Ground Truth

Focus Features
Patricia Foulkrod/United States 2006

This well-meaning documentary by Patricia Foulkrod consists mainly of interviews with a few dozen veterans, mostly ex-Army and ex-Marines of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The film tells of their experiences with these conflicts and shows how they have adjusted back to civilian life through small vignettes of their daily routines.

The people Foulkrod features are struggling – with varied levels of support – to deal with the long-term impact of their military involvement. Partners testify to the changes wrought in their lives as a result of events thousands of miles away. A few interviewees are dealing with the remnants of physical trauma induced by the loss of limbs. The talking-head-style interviews are interspersed with still photos and video clips of the war gleaned from various news agencies and salted with a clever rap soundtrack including The Roots and Mos Def.

But The Ground Truth begins with complaints about the disconnection between the promises made in the recruitment process (which for almost all of them was post-9/11) and the actual reality of war. Unfortunately, their surprise at what war required of them makes it difficult to be wholly sympathetic to their subsequent problems. War is not a new idea. The consequences of war have been bloodily documented in every possible medium for thousands of years. And yet it seems these young men and women thought they could be in the military without being touched by any potential bother.

This gap in their understanding isn’t adequately addressed, but the film does work because it leaves you in no doubt of the psychological cost of war. It also clarifies that the interviewees are fighting very real demons without adequate help from military sources. But that’s what happens when one goes to war. What a shame that none of the veterans who spoke out in this film were capable of fully grasping this truth before they experienced it themselves.

© 2006 Sarah Manvel. All rights reserved.

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