Movie Reviews From a Spiritual Perspective


June 11, 2012

FRAY, by Geoff Ryan, is the most powerful and enlightening film I have seen yet on PTSD in war veterans today.  Before attending a screening at the 2012 Arizona International Film Festival,  I viewed the trailer which made me think the film was going to be like other veterans returning home with PTSD, talky, possibly preachy.  But I was very surprised to see a film that gave the audience a voyeuristic view of the everyday life of a veteran and his experience of PTSD. 

I have never really understood how PTSD manifests until seeing this film.  In the very beginning we see Justin (excellently played by Bryan Kaplan), a US Marine who recently returned to Oregon from his most recent tour of duty.  As he's driving on a country road deep in the forest, he gets a flashback of combat trauma.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and I got a deep basic 101 in PTSD just from this first scene.

The style of the film was reminiscent of cinema verite, and was frequently beautifully cinematic, thanks to Jarin Blaschke.  Justin often sought solace and security by sleeping in his truck deep in the Oregonian forests.  The shots of the forest were awesome for a digital film and gave a powerful background for Justin's internal struggle with PTSD.  After the screening some audience members expressed how their loved ones who were veterans had the same behavior of living out in the forest when they were unable to cope with regular life.

When we see scenes of Justin in his regular life, trying to get a job to pay the bills, sleeping in an apartment with paper-thin walls, and reacting to people who want to help and have close relationships with him, we see his emotional scars from war.  He expresses intense frustration, deep shame and extreme unworthiness.  The origin of these symptoms is not well-explained which I think is commendable in the film's writing.  The film just shows what is.  I could speculate on where Justin's shame comes from; but I'll save that for another blog.

I highly recommend this film as required viewing for all Americans and especially those contemplating joining the war or encouraging others to go to war.  At the time of this writing, the film is not yet available in theaters or DVD yet, but one can email the filmmakers through their website to see it online or to get a copy.


May 29, 2012

A SISTER'S CALL,  by Rebecca Shaper and Kyle Tekiela, was one of  the most surprising, amazingly profound and personally triggering documentaries I have ever seen.  The film description and trailers do not do it justice.  I will try not to create any spoilers but it's easy to understand that a family member's problems are never unrelated to the rest of the family.  As the film unfolded I was amazed at what was revealed.  My family experience was so similar in many ways and after the film I wa...
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May 2, 2012

Two Americans was the first film I attended during the film festival.  I expected to learn something about immigration and my current home state, Arizona.  But I learned way more than I expected.  This film is a great introduction to the underlying corruption that pervades immigration policy in Arizona. 

All sides to the Arizona immigration issue were shown; what it fells like to be the enforcer of immigration laws and what it feels like to be an undocumented immigrant in Phoenix, AZ.  This f...
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2012 AZ International Film Festival Reviews

Jean Jessup Here are my reviews of the films I found most compelling and requested film reviews. More reviews may be added. Here's the official website for the AZIFF:

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