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Invisible War

The Invisible War

5.0 1

Cast: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, Kori Cioca, Jessica Hinves

Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick investigates the troubling epidemic of rape in the military while speaking with courageous victims who have refused to be intimidated into silence. In 2009 alone, 16,150 service members were sexually assaulted. Meanwhile, it's estimated that female soldiers in the U.S. military are more likely to


Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick investigates the troubling epidemic of rape in the military while speaking with courageous victims who have refused to be intimidated into silence. In 2009 alone, 16,150 service members were sexually assaulted. Meanwhile, it's estimated that female soldiers in the U.S. military are more likely to be raped by a male soldier than shot by an enemy combatant. Despite the overwhelming evidence presented by these victimized soldiers, however, only 2% of rape accusations in the military end in prosecution. In some cases, male soldiers have even been awarded medals for bravery and professionalism while being investigated for rape. In addition to hearing from women who have been sexually assaulted while serving their country, we also learn how systemic corruption allows the vast majority of their attackers to walk free and what is now being done to ensure that no crime goes unpunished.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
As written and directed by documentarian Kirby Dick, The Invisible War sheds a public light on the crises of sexual assault and rape in the U.S. armed forces. The film delivers a sledgehammer blow to the audience, with an experience every bit as shattering and overwhelming as one might infer from the subject matter. The documentary benefits from an ingenious and subtle narrative structure. Dick begins with an onslaught of slogan-heavy USAF propaganda films ("be all that you can be") that leave an ironic aftertaste. Then he brutally undercuts this jingoism with the cold, hard truth of military reality for many of the women (and one male participant) who walked into recruitment offices with high hopes and patriotic spirits, only to suffer from sexual violations while on duty. Speaking with great candor and yet a surprising degree of restraint, these interviewees describe the horrors that befell them. Then, as the picture rolls forward, it takes a long, sobering look at the broader issue -- the corrupt and twisted military hierarchy that makes prosecution for individual acts of sexual violence close to impossible in many cases. Dick then brings these two halves of the equation back together in the last third of the movie, as seven of the interviewees -- all courageous, headstrong young women -- valiantly attempt to fight the system with a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Defense. This is as powerful a muckraking documentary as has ever been made for two major reasons. First: Dick and producer/co-interviewer Amy Ziering approach their subjects with an unusual degree of empathy. Participants never discuss their rapes or assaults in needlessly graphic sexual detail, nor do the filmmakers milk the interviews for emotional effect, although we do get rich and satisfying biographical profiles of the various victims that are laced with indications of how the personal violations have damaged or ruined their lives, often irreparably. These sequences radiate humanism. Also, out of consideration for the subjects, one senses that Ziering conducted many of the one-on-one exchanges with the female interviewees, perhaps because, with a woman holding the reins, this part of the documentary inquest became much less emotionally demanding for the subjects. The film's second ticket to sublimity is the degree to which it explores the social backdrop of the crimes at hand. Dick's research pays off here, as he succeeds at unveiling one outrageous obstacle to prosecution after another, such as the longtime responsibility of military commanders for charging staff members with felonies, and one shocking U.S. government act that says that the military itself cannot be held responsible for injurious personal acts conducted under its umbrella. If this all sounds bewildering, rest assured that it merely represents the tip of the iceberg: Dick then interpolates vexing exchanges with U.S. political figures (such as the inane Dr. Kaye Whitley, former Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office Director), who halfheartedly try to assert that the armed forces are doing everything in their power to restrain sexual assault, such as a colorful ad campaign designed to discourage rape. As one interviewee reminds us in counterpoint, the thought that a wall poster could dissuade a violent criminal from bursting into the cabin of a female recruit and raping her isn't simply unconvincing -- it is moronic. In the final analysis, the overall feeling that one takes away from this documentary isn't simply horror over the abominations that befell the victims -- it's a sense of infuriation and a yearning for justice. On that note, it isn't surprising to learn, in a title card at the end of the film, that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta saw the movie shortly after its completion and began to take the first few steps toward legal accountability for on-duty perpetrators of sexual assault. One hopes that Panetta's actions only represent the beginning of real change.

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Special Features

Closed Caption; ; Audio Commentary with Director Kirby Dick and Producer Amy Ziering; Extended Interviews; Sundance Post-Screening Speak Out; VetWOW Survivor Retreat; PTSD Therapy Deleted Scene

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Amy Ziering Interviewer
Kirby Dick Interviewer
Kori Cioca Participant
Jessica Hinves Participant
Ariana Klay Participant
Trina McDonald Participant
Elle Helmer Participant
Hannah Sewell Participant
Myla Haider Participant
Paula Coughlin Participant
Michael Matthews Participant
Claudia Kennedy Participant
Wilma Vaught Participant
Loree Sutton Participant
Dennis Laich Participant
Susan Burke Participant
Anu Bhagwati Participant
Greg Rinckey Participant
Russell Strand Participant
Susan Avila-Smith Participant
Amy Herdy Participant
Helen Benedict Participant
Chellie Pingree Participant
Louise Slaughter Participant
Mike Turner Participant
Loretta Sanchez Participant
Jackie Speier Participant
Ted Poe Participant
Susan Davis Participant
Niki Tsongas Participant
Mary Kay Hertog Participant
Anthony Kurta Participant
Kaye Whitley Participant
Stace Nelson Participant

Technical Credits
Kirby Dick Director,Screenwriter
Tanner King Barklow Producer
Dondi Bastone Musical Direction/Supervision
Doug Blush Associate Producer,Editor,Screenwriter
Derek Boonstra Editor
Nicole Boxer-Keegan Executive Producer
Gary Calamar Musical Direction/Supervision
Kate Coe Consultant/advisor
Maria Cuomo Cole Executive Producer
Abigail E. Disney Executive Producer
Geralyn White Dreyfous Executive Producer
Sally Jo Fifer Executive Producer
Kirsten Johnson Cinematographer
Teddy Leifer Executive Producer
Women Donors Network Executive Producer
Jennifer Siebel Newsom Executive Producer
Sarah Johnson Redlich Executive Producer
Regina Scully Executive Producer
Thaddeus Wadleigh Cinematographer
Bill White Animator
Amy Ziering Producer,Screenwriter

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Invisible War
1. Dream Come True [7:44]
2. Nobody Saved Me [6:07]
3. Silent Statistics [4:21]
4. Witch Hunting [7:03]
5. Veterans Day [4:09]
6. Target-Rich Environment [10:02]
7. Investigation [12:00]
8. Government Of One [9:33]
9. Breaking The Bond [6:05]
10. Lawsuit For Justice [10:29]
11. Stopping The Tradition [5:41]
12. Shared Challenge [8:53]


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The Invisible War 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
JYKWA More than 1 year ago
I'd been reading up about it but the actual film was even more powerful. The systemic injustice suffered by these men and women is horrific. The military seems like a very hostile workplace. And it scares me to realize that the perpetrators, who often go scot-free or even promoted, may one day mix amongst us civilians without our knowing. They could create new victims in workplaces and in our neighborhoods. I am glad that the Secretary of Defense is taking some steps to improve the process, but more needs to be done. Kudos to Kirby Dick and his team for bringing this important issue to our attention.