The death toll of suicide bombers and the weekly body count/injury report of the war in Iraq has become the soundtrack to the majority of news reports over the past five years. While we are almost daily informed of death or injury, we do not hear the details of these tragedies. The church I have recently been attending mentions the wounded and dead from the war during the prayers of the people, but only as a collective group and not individually. James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano of The Sopranos), upon returning from a visit to Iraq, was frustrated over the silence surrounding the injured Iraq war veterans and decided to make a documentary in which he would interview a variety of veterans who faced certain death yet lived. The result is Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq, a deeply unsettling film that implicitly questions our continued presence in Iraq without being overtly political.
In an interview for NBC, Gandolfini expressed his desire for the documentary to remain apolitical so as to keep the focus squarely on the stories of these injured veterans. As a result, viewers will obviously bring their own political views to bear on the documentary and interperet the soldiers’ sacrifices, largely, in one of two ways. However, Gandolfini still wanted the film to focus on the ideas of duty, honor, integrity, and service to one’s country and, despite the diversity of political viewpoints that will be brought to bear on this documentary, Gandolfini’s wishes are fulfilled.
Alive Day Memories includes interviews with soldiers from all branches of the military that have endured unimaginable horrors. Most of the veterans have suffered amputations, many multiple. One has lost his sight. Where injuries are not visible, mental damage is prevalent, primarily in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder. Of course, it is not difficult to imagine that every Iraq war veteran will suffer from the latter. Yet despite their incalculable losses, nearly all of the veterans Gandolfini interviews say they would do it all over again. This is certainly a must-see film in the truest sense of the phrase, one that depresses, challenges, and inspires.
Alive Day Memories includes scenes of intense, disturbing violence and some strong language. Click here for a list of upcoming viewings.