“Fort Bliss,” a powerful feature film on the lives of military families, opened in Washington DC, New York City, Los Angeles and El Paso over the weekend. Written and directed by Claudia Myers, the film proves that narrative can have a strong social impact message.
How do you leave your children for 15 months? How do families cope when a parent is fighting overseas? How do you come back from war?
These questions are at the center of the film, which focuses on the less visible side of war--the families back home. Myers, who is a professor at American University’s School of Communication, says that while the movie is fiction, it touches on many post deployment truths and experiences.
“Fort Bliss,” starring Michelle Monaghan and Ron Livingston, tells the story of an Army medic and single mother returning home from Afghanistan. While trying to reconnect with her 5-year-old son she is also trying to adjust to civilian life, learn how to be a mother and manage her duties in the military.
Myers, who worked with the military in the past on a training film and documentaries, explains where the idea came from. “I was doing a focus group with some infantry soldiers and one of them was a single father, and he had deployed twice to Iraq. And I asked him what he did with his son while he was gone. He said he left him with the neighbors.” She hopes that the film will expose the general public to a side of the military few consider, and those who have no army background, like Myers, have little clue about.
Under her other hat, Myers teaches Film & Media Arts at American, and she says her roles as filmmaker and educator are complimentary. To her students, or any aspiring filmmaker, she recommends to find what they are passionate about. “I think being motivated to tell stories that matter is the best kind of approach to filmmaking. I think you have to be passionate, you have to have a reason for telling the story you are telling. I think you really have to believe in it.”
Some filmmakers will say working with the military is not always easy, but Myers gives the army credit for supporting her work “They did not ask me to make any changes, they didn't ask me to soften any of the more difficult material.” The film touches on sensitive issues such as military families, war, women’s service, PTSD and sexual harassment. In her conversations with soldiers Myers learned about the scope of sexual harassment in the service, and while she didn’t want the whole movie to be on the issue, she felt she had to bring it up.
Credible proof that Myers and her team did a good job portraying a soldier’s reality comes from reactions to a recent screening for 400 veterans in Los Angeles. “Reaction was very good. They really seemed to respond very favorably to the film even though they admitted coming into it with some reservations.”
“Fort Bliss” provides a meaningful glimpse into the family lives of American women and men in uniform. It opens Sept 26, at the West End Cinema in DC. For more information on where to see the film, go to fortblissthemovie.com/category/screenings.