This is not a political film, nor is it like anything you have seen on the evening news. It's a series of interviews with American soldiers in Iraq who express their emotions and feelings about being in the middle of a war they never expected to be in through their music... George Gittoes is a brave and passionate Australian artist and filmmaker who literally risked his life by going to Iraq with a single video camera and getting to know and film these remarkable men and women who have been a part of the most controversial war in history - through no choice of their own. Most of them are young and joined the Army to get an education, gain maturity and discipline, and maybe "see the world" in the process. But some of them, as you will see, joined the Army to get away from their own "war zones" at home - the ghettos and gang violence in their neighborhoods was far worse at the time than anything they could have imagined. Little did they know about what was ahead.
There are all types of soldiers and music featured in this film - country, gospel, hiphop, rap and good old rock and roll... but a few of these soldiers wrote and performed songs they had written themselves, to cope with and express their feelings about what they were going through. Some of the lyrics (particularly in some of the rap songs) may seem crude and vulgar, but we must remember that these are our children, our friends, parents, brothers and sisters - who were thrown into the middle of this conflict with no idea if they would ever make it back home again. Gittoes became so involved in following the lives of a few of these soldiers he was able to see at different times during their deployment (and the fact that they were over there for 15 months and made it back to their bases in Germany and were able to come home to America to visit their families for the first time in 2 years), and was also so impressed with their musical talents, that he has made a second movie ("Rampage", about one soldier's life and family in the violent "Brown Sub" section of Miami) and is planning a third film. "Rampage" has not been released in the US yet, but won accolades at the Berlin Film Festival and is a "must see" film, as well.
A few of the soldiers who were songwriters and musicians before the war are being assisted by Gittoes and his remarkable family (son Harley and co-producer Gabrielle Dalton) by not only featuring them in these films, but also providing opportunities for them to record and produce their music.
One of the most promising is Spc. (now Sergeant) Janel Daniels, a mechanic in the Army, who sang her original song, "Home of the Brave" in "Soundtrack to War" while she was making a gasket for a piece of machinery in the glaring Iraqi sun. She is also featured in "Rampage". As well as being a soldier in every sense of the word, she is hauntingly beautiful and her stunning voice and lyrics tell you all you need to know about what she has seen and been through. She had written (but not recorded) quite a few more songs before the war and has been recording many of them in the past year since her return. I have heard some of her other songs, and they are fresh and upbeat and she is absolutely unforgettable... I have no doubt that you will be hearing her name in the music business very soon.
Long story short, I give "Soundtrack to War" my highest recommendation - 5 stars all the way. Be sure to watch the Director's Commentary to meet and get to know George Gittoes and how he made the film. He is truly a remarkable man, and deserves our gratitude for telling these stories - they needed to be told in order for us to help all of our soldiers make the difficult transition back into normal life after all they have seen and been through. These veterans deserve our highest respect.