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It has been called 'the saddest acre in America.' It is also one of the most sacred. Section 60 in Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for young men and women who died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For families and friends, it is a place to grieve, to honor, to remember--and to find comfort and community with others who have shared the same profound loss. Award-winning filmmakers Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill present this emotional, elegiac documentary filmed entirely in Section 60 where cameras captured the sights and sounds of funerals and provide intimate glimpses of family members and friends who have come to honor their loved ones.
As with Jon Alpert's 'Alive Day Memories' - which moved too fast through war survivors' stories to get the full impact, I once again found myself feeling guilty for not being more moved.
This is an unflinching portrait of the grieving of families who lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. While it can't help but be affecting for a while, the endless parade of so many weeping faces starts to become numbing not moving. It also starts to feels a dangerously on the edge of exploitive.
Certainly that's not the intent. And given that in our recent wars the government has been careful to hide the bodies, coffins and death there's a real social value to being reminded that these were real young men and women - parents, children, spouses - dying over there. But by moving so quickly from one grieving family to the next, there's a missed chance to get to know these people (women mostly) left behind to try and carry on as more than just symbols of loss.
I loved Alpert's 'Baghdad ER' because it did the opposite of these two more recent parts of what became a trilogy about the Iraq war. It turned the soldiers and the doctors fighting to save them into real, complete, complex human beings, and not just symbols of war, bravery and devastation
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