Filmmaker Kirby Dick made, arguably, one of my favorite documentaries with his thrilling expose of the movie ratings board (MPAA) in "This Film Is Not Yet Rated." Clearly, he is not adverse to challenging the status quo and asking the probing and provocative questions that help to define an issue. This unblinking gaze is turned onto the horrific subject of sexual assault and cover-up within the military in the eye-opening, unpleasant, and powerful "The Invisible War." And the result may leave you quite stunned and disturbed. This is certainly not a new topic, I've heard about quite a few individual cases through the years. But the quantity of these events might just surprise you and Dick uses the government's own internal statistics to support his claims. Here's a couple of examples: about 20% of women in the armed services have endured some type of sexual assault (these are just reported numbers as well) and men entering service are 15% more likely to have sexual assault in their background than a similar composition of civilian men. The Department of Defense estimates there were 19,300 service members sexually assaulted in 2010 alone! Tell me that isn't a horrifying figure.
Dick makes things extremely personal in "The Invisible War." The film is populated by a staggering number of women and men who were victimized while serving their country. Obviously, these stories are shocking and uncomfortable. The betrayal (by people they considered brothers or friends) alone has impacted many irreparably and the psychological toll is apparent. Many of the strongest emotional moments are provided by the loved ones of these former soldiers as well. The film also examines the issue from the legal side, with many experts weighing in on the handling of such cases. Because as if the initial attacks weren't awful enough, the military response (in most cases) doubly intensified the situations. For me, this is the most disgusting part of these crimes--the seeming indifference, the lack of responsibility, and the veiled (or not so veiled) threats to keep these victims silenced. It's appalling, truly.
"The Invisible War" is an important film that should be seen and examined. Hopefully by continuing to shine a light on this unpleasant subject, there will be more and more pressure to start taking effective measures (beyond a ridiculous advertising campaign that supposes all men are predators and women should be wary of everyone). But those in power, even with congressional scrutiny, seem to remain obstinate and defiant. Obviously, "The Invisible War" is an impassioned movie that will get under your skin. In that way, it is extremely effective and affecting. My highest recommendation, this is a topic that needs to be explored even further--but Dick's film is a bracing expose that just might surprise you. KGHarris, 10/12.