Professor’s war film debuts at film festival
April 7, 2007
By: Jason Braff
Professor Rebecca Abbott’s documentary “No Unwounded Soldiers” earned a spot this past weekend at the 2007 Vail Film Festival in Colorado. Abbott’s film, which was completed in November 2006, was one of 10 documentaries selected to the four-day festival.
“I really want people to hear what those individuals have to say about what the experience of war has done to them, their families and their communities,” Abbott said last week before departing for the festival. Abbott added that she was “quite excited” about her film reaching a larger audience.
The 78-minute documentary is about the struggles soldiers deal with when they return home from war. Veterans from World War II, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War of 1990-1991 and the current Iraq war are featured in the film through various interviews and footage that shows them performing an original play to “give back” to the returning soldiers of today’s war. The play is put together through a drama therapy group to help ease the soldiers’ haunting memories of war. All the soldiers suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. According to Abbott, a person exposed to war retains the experience after the war ends.
“We tend to think that when a war is over, it is over,” Abbott said. “We don’t realize that war doesn’t end until the last soldier dies, because it lives in their heads.”
Abbott stressed that although the film is not meant to break political ground, it is meant to make the viewer think about war and its consequences. “I did not want to make a political film. The facts, they speak for themselves. I want people to understand what a serious thing waging war is,” she said. “One of the reasons why I made the film was to make people aware that you just can’t start a war if you don’t know what you are getting into.”
When production began on “No Unwounded Soldiers,” Abbott and the veterans in her film felt that the war in Iraq looked very familiar to them. “A lot has changed since I started working on the film,” Abbott said. “On one hand the [Iraq] war looks even more like Vietnam now than before, and on the other hand people are debating if we should stay and keep fighting and try to win, or withdraw.”
Though she admits that her skills in the marketing department are lacking, Abbott hopes to eventually sell DVDs to the public. Judging by the response of those who have seen the movie, especially the soldiers and their families, Abbott does not foresee a distribution problem.
“[I would like to market] this film more than any other I have made because it has a lot of potential to help people,” Abbott said. “For families of veterans it helps them understand the kinds of changes that soldiers go through when they serve in combat; they are not the same person when they come back.”
The documentary also caught the eye of David Donnelly, the dean of the School of Communications.”I think it is a wonderful, timely and powerful work,” Donnelly said. “It is a fantastic documentary. It does what a good video work should do-stimulate and address important social issues.”
To help produce the film, Abbott used Quinnipiac seniors Ben Shapiro and Paul Fleck, and recent Quinnipiac graduates Aaron Schurman, Dennis Boskov and Emily Flinter. By involving students, Abbott said it saved her some money (the production cost $35,000) and gave the students a valuable experience. “It was wonderful that she worked with some students,” Donnelly said.
Abbott brought the stars of her documentary to experience the festival where she is hoping to earn the same top prize her earlier film, “Herbert III,” did. At the Broadcast Editors Association Faculty Video Competition, Abbott’s film won the “Best of Festival” award. It was shown at 17 festivals and won additional acting awards in festivals in Massachusetts and Georgia.