Body of War - Directed by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro.
This heartbreaking and unnerving documentary focuses on the physical and emotional journey of Thomas Young, a soldier who suffered a spinal cord injury during the Iraqi War. Because of his paralysis, he became dependent on his mother, Cathy, and wife, Brie Townsend, for simple daily routines such as urinating. Co-director Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro do a great job of documenting the realities of Thomas’ life by showing the grueling experiences goes through while taking lots of medication to numb all of his pain. His body’s temperature can’t adjust to cold or hot temperatures, so he has to wear something to control it. Meanwhile, his loving mother attends anti-war protests and he also gets a chance to speak out against the war by sharing what he went through. Ironically, his brother is about to become a soldier and his mother says that she’d be proud of her children no matter what they did—even if they just had a menial job. She pretty much hit the nails on the head when she states that the soldier’s aren’t really heroes when they’re at war. If only the army had treated his injuries at the hospital longer and more thoroughly, Thomas wouldn’t be going through the kind of pain he’s trying to overcome now. The most fascinating and somewhat uplifting part of Body of War is when he gets a chance to have a discussion with Senator Robert Byrd from West Virginia, who cheers him up a bit. What’s ultimately maddening and sad, though, is how the government’s overall selfishness, incompetence, deceptiveness and negligence affect a good human being and American citizen such as Thomas Young. At least he learns how to find inner strength and hope, but, no human being, under any circumstances, deserves to go through what he went through and will be going through for the rest of his life. Number of times I checked my watch: 0. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Very High. Released by Film Sales Company. Opens at the IFC Center.
Stalags - Directed by Ari Libsker.
In Hebrew with subtitles. This provocative documentary focuses on Stalags, pornographic books which became popular during the 1960’s. What made these books so controversial and shocking? They featured sexual fetishes involving blonde women of the SS in a variety of S&M acts with captive American and British pilots. According to some people interviewed who used to look at those books, they considered them just like any other pornographic material—it was no big deal to them, really, although they did make sure to hide it. Director Ari Libsker does a decent job of allowing you to understand what Stalags are, where they could be found today, but it’s more interesting to find out who the real authors were, who used a pseudonym, of course. The interviews aren’t particularly revealing or insightful enough, though, and even at a running time of only 1 hour and 3 minutes, Stalags drags a bit and feels tedious. Preceded by Two Women and a Man, directed Roee Rosen who reads sexually explicit material by the fictitious pornographer Justine Frank with imaginatively animated depictions of corresponding scenes. That 16-minute documentary should prepare you for what’s about to come in Stalags. Number of times I checked my watch: 6. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Moderately Low. Released by Heymann Brothers Films. Opens at the Film Forum.