Friday, September 14, 2007

Body of War Opens at Toronto Film Festival!

Just came back from Toronto where Body of War premiered at the Film Festival. It was a huge success. We all were put up at a very fancy hotel, where a VIP suite was decked out with chocolates and fruit and exquisite pastries. The whole event was surreal. Tomas wore his Iraq Vets Against the War tee shirt everywhere.
As they say, the film got a lot of ink. This is from the first review:
It's easy to convince a people to go to war, one political leader wrote. "All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifist for a lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country." Robert Byrd declaimed that quote to the Senate, as Congress was debating whether to authorize the President to go to war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Then Byrd read the source: Hermann Goering, 1934....In the 60s, America's participation in the Vietnam war had a readymade counter-insurgency: the young people who might be drafted to serve in it. This time, the most articulate opponents are not the young people eligible to go to war. It's the ones who came back. The ex-GIs who now serve in antiwar groups are not natural radicals, not lifelong pacifists. They love their dogs. They love their wives (and wish, the ones most severely wounded, that they could make love to them). And they luvvvv the gung-ho war movie Top Gun. They just think the Iraq occupation is a shame on our conscience, a killing field for their buddies. They believe they have the right to speak up, and that the rest of us have the obligation to listen.
Body of War, directed by docu-doyenne Ellen Spiro and Donahue, intercuts the 2002 war debate with the postwar life of Tomas Young, a soldier who was paralyzed with a shattered spine within a week of arriving in Iraq. Now, after months recuperating at Walter Reed Hospital, Young is back home with his fiancee, annoyed by the mundane aspects of confinement: how, constantly, "my body shows how much it disagrees with me." He's about to be married, and is worried that his leaky bowels will embarrass him during the ceremony. At times, this gentle, articulate guy shows the pressure of a film crew's crowding presence. "You wanna film my fridge?" he asks Spiro. "What are we on, MTV Cribs now?"
Young is not just a poignant survivor; he is a persuasive proselytizer. He speaks at rallies with a quiet authority seared in experience. And because he had comrades killed in Iraq, he tells Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes that he'd protest the war even if he hadn't been paralyzed: "I would still speak out — although I probably wouldn't have as firm a leg to stand on." Then, instantly correcting himself: "Or chair to sit in." The contrast of the Congress' surrender to political dictates and Young's heroism, in Iraq and back home, makes this superb documentary almost unbearably moving — as pathetic as it is inspiring.
Donahue got involved when Young said he wanted to meet Ralph Nader, and Donahue, a Nader friend, came along. But the political hero of Body of War is Byrd, nine-term Virginia Senator and, in his 20s, an Exalted Kleagle of the Ku Klux Klan. Though the Senator and the soldier might seem to have little in common, they are bonded by their opposition to the occupation, and their meeting serves an apt climax to the film. Byrd is near 90 now, and he walks with difficulty; as Young says, "I see we've both got some mobility issues." Together they read the names of the senators who in Oct. 2002 voted against authorizing the war — "the immortal 23," Byrd calls them.In the ears of the other 77, Byrd's call back then must ring in their ears like the angry voice of a conscience ignored. "Wait!" he shouted in the echoing chamber. "Slow down! Don't rush this through."
The ghosts of 9/11 still stir.---- by Richard Corliss at Time/CNN on line. .Eddie Vedder brought his wife and kid. Here they are talking with Tomas at the pre-movie dinner. The dinner before the show was a warm family affair. More like an Irish wedding than anything. There were extensive representatives from three families: Phil Donahue's, Ellen Spiro's and Tomas Young's (the star of the film). Here's Ellen with Tomas's family.Here's Phil with Ellen and her mom and her sister and me.Here're me, Bernadine Colish, the editor, and Ellen spiro.
To find out about the origins to the film, go to

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