New Film Brings Focus on Plight of Returning Veterans
By Mark Anderson
Young filmmaker Christopher Martini has done Music Television projects and film projects involving a number of celebrities.
But he really shines as the writer, producer and main actor in his first-ever documentary—a moving “docu-drama” entitled Trooper—in which he plays soldier Murphy O’Shea, who comes home to New York City after a tour of duty in the current Iraq occupation.
His bleak existence shows the sheer stress of combat on the fragile fabric of civilized life.
Martini’s new film debuted Aug. 6 during the four-day Health and Educational Fair sponsored by the National Gulf War Resource Center in Dallas, Texas. The annual event, covered this year by AFP, helps veterans
address their serious health problems and navigate the Veterans Administration’s mountainous red tape, stemming from service in the first gulf war in Iraq and Kuwait, and from the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Martini says his movie is neither anti-war nor pro-war. His character—highly troubled by chronic fatigue, vomiting, emotional problems and a hard time readjusting to regular life at home with his lonesome Vietnam-veteran father—decides to research depleted uranium (DU), the radioactive weapons component used as an incredibly effective penetrator for hardened targets and also as armor against enemy fire.
DU, when fragmented or converted to an
aerosol, enters open wounds, is ingested on food or is inhaled. It has been linked to cancers and birth defects, affecting soldiers from both sides and civilians without bias over
wide geographic areas. In the film, O’Shea confronts his VA doctor about DU. The doctor minimizes DU’s significance, even after Murphy tells him that the pills the doctor is providing are not helping him handle his strange ailments.
The chronically-ill, emotionally conflicted soldier is not sure whether to follow a trusted friend’s advice and fight “the system,” or to remain passive and accept reality—a reality defined by restless nights seared by disturbing recollections of brutal battle scenes. His days mainly involve spending precious time with Bill, his aging, quirky father whose Vietnam service depleted his health.
The father-son scenes are particularly touching as they show the unique bond of father and son, which only real fathers and sons can truly understand—in the challenging context of both Bill and Murphy having served in the military while sacrificing their best years to do so.
The movie follows young O’Shea through the dark corridors of his life as he revisits friends, including lady friends, and tries to make civilian life work again. The viewer is struck by the film’s somber conclusion in its irony and in the way O’Shea makes the issues of depleted uranium and Gulf War Illness real and not mere clinical abstractions.
The film may be neutral, but in its own way it can help us decide whether constant warfare accompanying our interventionist foreign policy is really the way to go, since that policy guarantees nonstop casualties and fatalities with never-ending medical bills.
Mark Anderson is a longtime newsman now working as the editor for AFP. He and his wife Angie provide photographs and video of the events they cover for AFP. Listen to Mark’s radio show at republicbroadcasting.org, Sundays at 7pm central. Email him at at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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(Issue # 34, August 23, 2010)