How to Fold a Flag is essentially the 3rd part of Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein's Iraq trilogy. This part brings home the story of several of the Veterans who we were first introduced to us in Gunner Palace. We now see what their lives are like about 5 years later as they are readjusting to life after Iraq. This is not the first film to profile returning Iraq War vets. They were preceded by such films as The Ground Truth, Home Front, Operation Homecoming, and the very powerful Body of War (which recounted the story of a severely disabled veteran) among others. Still How to Fold a Flag adds its own unique voice as the Iraq War is beginning to fade from public consciousness. It is at a distance several years after they have returned home. Like Clint Eastwood's powerful feature film, Flags of Our Fathers, it reminds us that for the Veterans the war is never really over. For many of the veterans and their families it shapes the rest of their lives. The things that they did can never be forgotten. Their lives may never return to normal. The film does become a little too defensive of Jon Powers'2008 campaign for Congress instead of standing back and letting the viewer judge, but that is a minor flaw. Mostly, it sticks with the Veterans' stories and lets them speak for themselves.
The film also does an excellent job of deconstructing the mythology of the soldier. In war, the soldiers in identical uniforms can easily lose their humanity and their individuality. When they return from war and pursue different career paths, interests and grow out their hair in different ways they regain their individuality and identity. They remind us that they had very different reasons for going to war and different paths when they return from it. This is important for us to understand as we cope with the aftermath of this war and its impact on our society as a whole. The film was well-received at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX, and I hope this emotional and powerful film receives a wider audience.
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