Films: Where Soldiers Come From

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Where Soldiers Come From

Where Soldiers Come From

USA, 2011, 91 Minute Running Time
Additional Countries: Afghanistan
Genre/Subjects: Documentary, Drama, Social Issues, War
Program: Documentary Films
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Heather Courtney
Producer: Heather Courtney
Editor: Kyle Henry, Heather Courtney
Cinematographer: Heather Courtney
Principal Cast: 

The innocence of youth and the well-being of families are always the unreckoned casualties of war—a fact that young filmmaker Heather Courtney brings to vivid life in this arresting documentary. Over four years, Courtney chronicles the fortunes of three working-class boys from the icy solitudes of Michigan's Upper Peninsula—aspiring artist Dom Fredianelli, rudderless Cole Smith, and Matt “Bodi” Beaudoin—as they negotiate the hazardous passages from high school to the bewilderment of young adulthood, from Army National Guard training weekends to actual combat in Afghanistan, and back home again. The backstories of their worried families are just as compelling. “He's my good boy,” Cole's mother, hard-working waitress Mary Smith, declares. Her weary face might speak for the uncertainty of an entire nation.

Shot in jittery, hand-held video, Soldiers is studiously apolitical, although the George W. Bush administration takes some flak from the disillusioned families. Instead of ideology, Courtney shows us the frightened young soldiers crammed into a plane flying to the war zone, proud parents reaching out to their distant sons via Skype, the blunt terror of roadside-bomb patrols, the profane small talk of the barracks, and, inevitably, the trauma of coming home as deeply changed people. The Best Years of Our Lives and The Deer Hunter have got nothing on this deceptively simple piece of work.

In the end, Dom paints an autobiographical graffiti mural on a schoolhouse wall—but for him, Cole, and Bodi, the troubled picture is unfinished.
—BILL GALLO

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