Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Regardless of what your political views are on the military and military service, there are two must-see documentaries dealing with women in the military at POWFest this year.

First up is The Silent Truth; a look at the death of LaVena Johnson, a young female soldier whose demise while serving in Iraq was ruled a suicide by the U.S. Army.  Director Joan Brooker-Marks (Larry Flynt: The Right to Be Left Alone) gives Johnson's father and mother, John and Linda Johnson, the opportunity to tell the story of their struggle to get to the bottom of what they feel are a suspicious set of circumstances surrounding their daughter's death; their own investigation leading them to a horrifying truth about systemic mistreatment of women in combat situations.

A still from The Silent Truth

Brooker-Marks was clearly operating on a relatively small budget here but, very much to her credit, she's quite well-versed in laying out a compelling story, regardless of any economic restraints.  Her technique here includes the use of rough but very effective animation, emotionally compelling interviews with the Johnson family and the film's military consultant Colonel Ann Wright, and a well-rounded argument aided by ample research.  The Silent Truth is a heartbreaking documentary of great importance and it needs to be viewed by as many people as possible.

A still from The Silent Truth

A still from Sisters in Arms

Beth Freeman's Sisters in Arms explores the participation of women in combat situations via the stories of three Canadian soldiers.  The documentary doesn't spend any time quibbling over the issue of these women's right to be in combat.  Instead, the film proves the worthiness of its subjects through a balanced examination of their domestic and occupational lives, peppering in an appropriate amount of context related to the history of women in the Canadian army.  It's a very successful piece that reveals much about the kind of women rarely seen in film.  What more could you ask for from a documentary?

A still from Sisters in Arms

A still from Sisters in Arms

Sisters In Arms Trailer from Beth Freeman on Vimeo.

Festival passes can be acquired at this link and tickets for individual screenings can be purchased here.

The Silent Truth and Sisters in Arms will screen together at POWFest on Sun., March 11th at noon at the Hollywood Theatre.

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