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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Muse of Fire advocates creative expression as a path to healing, 5 March 2010
Author: Kiki Carter from United States
On a whim, I checked out a DVD copy of Muse of Fire from my public
library, not really knowing what to expect.
Muse of Fire gives us a glimpse into the world of our soldiers at war. The documentary advocates creative expression as a path to healing war's emotional wounds. Director Lawrence Bridges takes neither a pro-war nor pro-peace stand. Muse of Fire is more of a video journal of a small sample of people who participated in Operation Homecoming. The film includes interviews with soldiers, military leaders, military families and writers. Hearing their stories helped me better understand some of what our soldiers endure.
Muse of Fire is a documentary about Operation Homecoming. According to interviews with Dana Gioia and Marilyn Nelson, Operation Homecoming came about when Dana and Marilyn, who were old friends, met at a conference of state poet laureates. Dana is the past poet director of the National Endowment for the Arts and was the keynote speaker at the conference. Marilyn was the Poet Laureate for the State of Connecticut from 2001-2006, and is the daughter of a Tuskegee Airman.
According to Dana, he and Marilyn hadn't seen each other in some time. Dana had a few minutes before he was to give his keynote speech, so he invited Marilyn to sit down with him at a tavern in New Hampshire and tell him about her teaching experience at West Point. Marilyn described her semester teaching an experimental course on poetry and meditation to groups of West Point cadets. It had been a phenomenal experience for her. As their discussion continued they agreed that it would be wonderful to find some way to bring the kind of clarification and perspective that literature and the arts offers, to people who are involved in wars.
Marilyn felt many of us are so separate from the military experience. She felt it was important for the American people to understand what our soldiers go through. Marilyn suggested offering writing workshops for people affected by war. So the National Endowment for the Arts set up workshops at military installations across the country and overseas. Dana said at first they thought it would be very small, maybe five or ten workshops, but as soon as they announced the program the place went crazy, phones ringing, faxes whirring, emails and packages coming in. Soldiers called on their satellite phones from Baghdad and Kabul wanting to participate in the workshops. Folks at NEA realized they needed many more workshops than they had planned.
All and all, over 12,000 pages of writings were submitted to the NEA, and nearly one hundred memoirs, stories, poems and letters are published in "Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front in the Words of US Soldiers and Their Families." Muse of Fire is a documentary based on Operation Homecoming.
The film left me feeling that people who engage in war need an outlet for processing the traumatic events they experience. Writing, journaling, songwriting and speaking can assist in the process of healing these emotional traumas. The special features include expanded interviews. I watched every one of them and especially enjoyed the perspectives of the featured writers.
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Infomercial for Amateur Book/Rushed Film about Writing Workshops, 16 October 2008
Author: Timothy Lillich from The Great State of Kansas
This film left me alienated for the whole of the film. While it is about a series of Operation Homecoming writing workshops and features authors reading their works, I kept expecting it to go to the next step and sell me the book. (It has a brief shot of the cover in the beginning.) However, it never really did, although it had that feel. Instead it presented information about some seemingly nebulous workshops where everyone discovered he or she was a writer. This is what makes the film so alienating, yet promotional at the same time. The workshops have passed. We cannot attend them anymore. Supposedly thousands attended them and got something out of them. At least those in this cast did. But they are still in the past and we can not go back and participate in them. So what are you and I to do? I guess, the short answer is to buy the book. But the film ignores the book again until it is mentioned in the closing credits. (The other answers apparent are to write ourselves, attend or start writing workshops, or support writing and the other arts.) Do viewers learn any specifics about when the Operation Homecoming workshops occurred? Where they were held? What topics were covered? Were there instructors besides the few interviewed in the film? Was anyone dissatisfied with them? Maybe all had the glorious awakening of the cast of this film. There is little or no film footage of any workshops, so is the film an afterthought? Another aspect that contributes to the lack of clarity of this film is the super-quick display of title frames introducing the next performance. It is frequently not enough time to read the name of the author, his or her relationship to the project, the title AND the type of writing. At least once, the viewer is expected to read all this, while listening to the end of the previous subject's thoughts with underscoring music in two seconds. Other times they are silently displayed and for longer (four full seconds) periods of time. Crediting captions also appear in the lower right corner as a performance begins, these being displayed longer. Clarity and understanding is lost if the viewer doesn't get it all read before the poem or reading begins. In fact at least one of the writers talks about clarity being important in the bonus features' interviews. The poems and readings are okay, nothing to get real excited about. But they do display the author's feelings, emotions, and thoughts which is the major point of the film. Just get it out and write it down. That's something I don't disagree with, but I am disappointed in the film. (I still am waiting for it to describe the book.) Still, it does make me curious enough to possibly borrow the book, as I like to read, from the library (as I did the DVD), but probably not enough to buy it for myself.
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