by Jim Ridley
The Invisible War made headlines earlier this year when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a directive that took the decision to prosecute rape cases in the U.S. military away from commanding officers. What drew the media's scrutiny wasn't just Panetta's decision, which refocused national attention a heinous epidemic of sexual assault within the military. It was that he made the directive two days after screening Kirby Dick and Ann Ziering's documentary, whose contents Nicholas Rapold praised back in June in the Village Voice:
With a discipline matching its milieu, The Invisible War lays bare a disturbing, systemic problem: In the military, rape rates among women number at least one in five, and reporting of the crimes often leads to blame-the-victim retaliation. Dick has assembled a moving litany of testimonials, covering a variety of soldiers and scenarios, giving this heartfelt, steel-nerved, conscientiously argued film an emotional and political maturity rare among "issue" docs. In addition to the voices of the aggrieved (who include men), there are head-clutching interviews with sloganeering military officials. ("Ask her when she's sober!" runs one cringe-worthy awareness campaign.) Braided throughout are verity tagalongs with one fiery young vet, Kori Cioca, who hacks through VA hotlines while seeking medical coverage for a jaw broken by a superior. ...
Shockingly, the women and men of The Invisible War qualify as marginalized. Soldier after soldier (one even an investigator herself) report being ostracized, hostage/prey to protocols that sometimes saw assailants adjudicating their victims. One lawsuit on behalf of victims was dismissed on the grounds that rape was an occupational hazard ("incident to service"). Given close-quarter fraternity and a hierarchy undergirded by take-a-bullet trust, military rape is a betrayal that one commentator compares to incest.
As part of its month-long "Doctober" documentary series, The Belcourt is screening The Invisible War twice, 3:45 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21 and 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24.
UPDATE: U.S. Navy veteran Trina McDonald, whose story is told in the documentary, will join the audience for a post-film Q&A at the screening 7 p.m. Wednesday.