g The Film Panel Notetaker: 2007 Hamptons Int'l Film Festival - "Body of War" - October 20, 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007

2007 Hamptons Int'l Film Festival - "Body of War" - October 20, 2007

A Film Still from Body of War: Tomas Young and Robert Byrd, Washington, D.C.

On Saturday, legendary daytime television talk show host Phil Donahue sat on a panel discussion that delved into issues of science and the media during the 2007 Hamptons International Film Festival at The Ross School in East Hampton. During the discussion, Donahue plugged his documentary Body of War, co-directed by Ellen Spiro, that would be playing later that evening in Southampton. I thought it would be very complementary to attend this screening and to write about it as an extension to my notes from the panel discussion.

Body of War shifts between the members of Congress who voted for or against the war in Iraq back in October of 2002, and the devastating physical and emotional effects the war had on 25-year-old Tomas Young, who was paralyzed from a bullet to his spine after serving in Iraq for less than a week. The film is an overall well-rounded personal story. We see Young through his hardships dealing with his disability and the people that love and care for him. But we also see his strength and determination to speak out against the war with other veterans, the community and even Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, who was one of the strongest opponents of the war. The film features original songs from Eddie Vedder.

Earlier in the day at the panel discussion, the issue of stem cell research came up. Donahue said that “stem cell research for spinal injuries is hugely complicated. We did our best to try to explain this in our documentary, but regret that this is one area in the film that didn’t make it completely into the final cut. It didn’t move the rest of the story along.” This is pretty much the one area in the film I wish they did delve into just a little more, as I wanted to learn more about what’s being done, or what’s not being done for that matter, in terms of stem cell research in the search for a cure to spinal injuries. I don’t necessarily think it would have been an entirely different movie, as this is a very pervasive matter that directly affects Young’s life.

Before the movie, Donahue said a few words. “We hope when this is over, you’ll agree with us. This is a close up look at harm in harm’s way. Seeing the pain is the point. Don’t sanitize the war. These injuries are life-altering, not only to the victim, but to the family.”

After the movie, there was a brief audience Q&A, though only one member of the audience asked a question. That question was, will this movie be seen across the country? Ellen Spiro said that they are currently working on distribution opportunities, and Phil said that they hope their film will be picked up and have success. Then Spiro asked a question of her own for the audience, that being how did the film start and why was it made. They had met Young at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and wanted to the nation to see his story.

Donahue added that “we’re up against the most secretive administration of my lifetime. We can never let this happen again. This administration has turned its back against the constitution” and to “return America to its original vision.”

As the audience exited the theater, they were handed a little booklet of The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States of America.

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