Amdoc 2016: Thank You for Your Service

After a fine sunday 6 hour excursion that included the town of Coacherella, that hosts a music festival every year but on this sunday mostly looked like the most deserted place on earth, with some great murals like the one that illustrates this post (made by Mac in 2014), it was back to American reality with the film ”Thank You for Your Service” by Tom Donahue, 88 minutes.

”The US military faces a mental health crisis of historic proportions”, says the first sentence of the catalogue text and indeed the film is a documentation of the fact that there are 22 suicides committed by war veterans – per day. 150.000 veterans took their lives after the Vietnam war. This film deals with the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, where 2.7 million served.

The film bombards you with information. Interview follow interview, psychiatrists, retired military generals and secretaries of

state talk, the filmmakers said afterwards that they had interviewed 240 people… The journalistic side, the collection of facts being conveyed is very well done, we get to know in details what is PTSD, but the question is whether the amount of information and the constant ”attack” of the sound score, with effects and music that makes me think of action movies, kill  the overall story of the four fine characters, whose stories are touching emotionally. It is sooo good when the filmmakers let interview scenes stand without music, let the four talk, come out as interesting human beings for whom the wounds are fatal. When the filmmakers show respect for the audience and do not tell it what to feel in this specific scene. Again and again this is what differs an American documentary from a European, is it not?

The characters: Kenny, a family father, who became another person physically and in his mind was fighting with suicidal thoughts, Phil who also left his wife, Lu who is diagnosed with the PTSD ”moral injury” but has the guts to go visit a now living in the US Iraqi family , though he was part of a combat where the family’s father and two brothers were killed and William, married four times after serving… The film shows that healing programmes can work, if done in the right way and the message of this film is clear: Something has to be done to get more personel deal with mental health problems in the army.

The website below advocates for the creation of a Behavioral Health Corps (BHC), take a look and support, I will do so even if I have many doubts about the way this film is constructed.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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