THE INVISIBLE WAR (Kirby Dick, 2011)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center: Francesca Beale Theater
144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
Through Thursday, January 24
Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War is one of the bravest, most explosive investigative documentaries you’re ever likely to see. Dick (This Film Is Not Yet Rated) busts open the military’s dirty little secret, revealing that episodes of horrific sexual abuse such as the Tailhook scandal are not an aberration but a prime example of a rape epidemic that seems to an accepted part of military culture. Dick speaks with many women and one man who share their incredible stories, describing in often graphic detail the sexual abuse they suffered, then faced further abuse when they reported what had happened. Their superiors, some of whom were the rapists themselves, either looked the other way, laughed off their allegations as no big deal, or threatened the victims’ careers. Dick includes remarkable Defense Department statistics — the government admits that approximately one out of every five female soldiers suffers sexual abuse and that there were nineteen thousand violent sex crimes in 2010 alone — even as such military officials as Dr. Kaye Whitley, Rear Admiral Anthony Kurta, and Brigadier General Mary Kay Hertog make absurd claims that they are satisfied with the way they are handling the alarming trend. The central figure in the film is Kori Cioca, a former member of the Coast Guard whose face was broken when she was raped by a superior and now keeps getting denied necessary medical services from the VA. Such courageous women as USAF Airman 1st Class Jessica Hinves, former Marine Officer Ariana Klay, USN veteran Trina McDonald, USMC Lieutenant Elle Helmer, USN Lieutenant Paula Coughlin, and even Special Agent Myla Haider of the Army Criminal Investigation Command also open up about the physical and psychological damage the abuse has left on their lives and careers. Inspired by Helen Benedict’s 2007 Salon.com article “The Private War of Women Soldiers,” Dick and producer Amy Ziering (The Memory Thief) have presented a searing indictment of an endemic military culture that has to come to an end, and fast. The Invisible War, which earned Dick and Ziering last year’s Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival at Lincoln Center, is back at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center for a brief run through January 24, celebrating its Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature.