Fans of Indy's own Heartland Film Festival are likely to remember director Stacey Stone's last project, the doc short The Man Behind 55,000 Dresses, a wonderful gem of a documentary that may have not left the festival a prize winner but certainly many hearts during its time in Indy. Stone is back with a documentary feature, My Own War, an in-depth look at the effects of war and those struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Moral Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury.
While it's unknown if Ms. Stone has submitted My Own War to Heartland, with the film she has crafted yet another immensely moving and revealing documentary that manages to delve honestly into a difficult subject while also, somewhat surprisingly, ending up with a film that celebrates the human spirit of these men and women who have sacrificed so much in service to their country.
While PTSD is certainly not limited to the military, in fact it is estimated that 1 in 13 adults will develop it at some point in their lifetime, as the suicide rate for veterans returning from war and military conflict soars it becomes increasingly more important that we begin having discussions about this frequently invisible disorder that can prove devastating to veterans, their families and their friends.
My Own War is a quietly devastating film consisting largely of interviews with a diverse group of veterans who survived military conflict only to return home to their own private wars that so few understand. In the film, one such person is Lon, a man whose father died in combat yet whose footsteps he followed by serving in Vietnam himself. Returning home, Lon found himself never quite leaving the war behind as his traumatized mind never strays too far away from the trauma of war. Brought comfort by a companion dog, Lon continues to struggle yet, as soldiers will do, continues to soldier on.
Stone incorporates other stories throughout My Own War, from those who've struggled with suicidal ideation to those for whom any semblance of human connection now remains a distant fantasy. These are heartbreaking stories brought powerfully to life yet done so with the dignity of these veterans intact.
My Own War features stellar lensing and production values wrapped around expertly brought to life interviews revealing the harsh reality of post-war life for many of those who gave themselves freely to the service of their nation yet return home to a war that never stops and support systems that are all too frequently inadequate to meet their needs. The film is never less than compelling and is an important view with significantly less "entertainment" value than Stone's last film yet no less vital in its storytelling and character development.
As one who lives with PTSD myself, I can offer up that I was never triggered by My Own War, always a possibility when dealing with PTSD or particularly traumatic subject matter, yet those with PTSD, especially those with a military background, might do well to share their viewing experience with a trusted loved one or confidante. With intelligence and insight, dignity and stark honesty, My Own War tells important stories and tackles a difficult subject in a way that informs, educates and, hopefully, inspires one to become more involved in protecting those who've done so much to protect us.
Only recently completed, My Own War is beginning its festival journey. For more information on the film, visit the film's website linked to in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic