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Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (2007)

7.2
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A unique documentary about troops' experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, based on writings by soldiers, Marines, and air men. Some writings were published in the New Yorker in summer 2006. A... See full summary »

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Title: Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (2007)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Credited cast:
Sharon D. Allen ...
Herself
...
Voice 'Aftermath'
Colby Buzzell ...
Himself / Writer
Richard Currey ...
Himself
...
Taking Chance (voice)
...
Road Work (voice)
Paul Fussell ...
Himself
...
'Distant Thunder' (voice)
Edward Parker Gyokeres ...
Himself
Joe Haldeman ...
Himself
Sangjoon Han ...
Himself
...
Himself / Writer
...
Voice 'Men in Black, ' 'Aftermath' (voice)
Yusef Komunyakaa ...
Himself
...
Camp Muckamungus (voice)
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Storyline

A unique documentary about troops' experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, based on writings by soldiers, Marines, and air men. Some writings were published in the New Yorker in summer 2006. A larger assortment was published as a book by Random House last September. The film drew upon the submissions by soldiers for the book. It's a remarkable portrait of troops at war - the complexities, doubts, and fears - written with honesty. The 81-minute version of the film (which will be in theatres) includes 11 pieces of writing, with different visual strategies, along with interviews with the writers, and with more established American writers who are also veterans. In the latter group are Tim O'Brien, Yusef Komunyakaa, Tobias Wolff, Joe Haldeman, James Salter, Anthony Swofford, Richard Currey, and Paul Fussell. The visual approaches range from poet Brian Turner reading directly to camera, to archival footage, to an animated "graphic novel," to a still photo sequence shot by photographer Antonin... Written by Adam Hyman, co-producer

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary

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Release Date:

9 February 2007 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Epiheirisi gyrismos  »

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Budget:

$1,200,000 (estimated)
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| (HDCAM)

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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User Reviews

 
a shattering experience
24 February 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience" is an Oscar-nominated documentary made up almost entirely of journal entries and poems written by soldiers and marines in combat. Operation Homecoming was a program developed by the National Endowment For the Arts in which distinguished authors were sent to military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan to teach soldiers and their families how to capture their experiences of war on paper. Ultimately, thousands of pages worth of personal reflections, in the form of essays, anecdotes and poems, were submitted to the project, only a very small handful of which could, by necessity, find their way into this film.

If nothing else, "Operation Homecoming" serves as an invaluable tool documenting what life is like for the common fighting man toiling in the trenches of not only these two specific wars but of any armed conflict. Notably absent from the film are statements and speeches made by military strategists, politicians and world leaders whose views we hear expressed ad infinitum and ad nauseam throughout the course of any military action. In their place are the thoughts and words of the men and women on the front lines, who day after day confront the actual face of war.

Through their essays and poems, these authors convey, with tremendous eloquence and insight, just what it means to live in near-constant fear of being injured or killed; or to see one's friends and comrades fall under a hail of bullets or be blown to smithereens by a detonated explosive; or to wrestle with the guilt of having snuffed out a fellow human being's life despite the fact that you've been raised from infancy to believe killing is wrong. As have many authors before them (Stephen Crane in "The Red Badge of Courage" comes first to mind), some of these writers show how the heroic idealism of a pre-war mindset can be instantly shattered when confronted with the brutal reality of life on the battlefield. For some, the writing has become almost a form of therapy, allowing them to process the experience in the hopes of eventually coming to terms with it all - if that's even possible.

The movie provides battle footage, still photos, staged reenactments and animation sequences, along with interviews with the actual writers and other authors on the subject (i.e., Anthony Swofford, Tobias Wolff) to visually complement and supplement the readings, which are delivered respectfully and movingly by such trained actors as Robert Duvall, Beau Bridges and Aaron Eckhart.

But all is not pure, unrelieved grimness. There is also a bit of gallows humor in the writing, designed to alleviate not only the stress of combat but the long stretches of intense boredom that are also, paradoxically, a part of life in the field. Indeed, there is probably not a single aspect of combat life that is not touched upon at some point in this film. It's that comprehensive.

This movie takes the issue out of the realm of the abstract, clearing away all the jingoism and false bravado that often go into depictions of war. These are just real people telling us their real stories in their own words, and some of them are absolutely heartbreaking. Through its honesty and artistry, the film becomes a stirring tribute to each and every one of the fine young men and women who have risked their lives - and given their lives - in battle. No matter your personal feelings about these particular wars or of war in general, you won't look at any of it in quite the same way again after seeing "Operation Homecoming."

And if you find yourself weeping - which you inevitably will - through the course of the film, you can do so without shame.


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