One hundred and ten Progressive Democrats of America members and their guests filled the center section of the Nuart Theater in Los Angeles for the premiere of Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro’s new film, “Body of War.” It was a sold-out house and a very special evening for everyone lucky enough to have gotten their tickets in advance.
The “Body of War” is the story of Tomas Young and his journey from healthy young man from Kansas to that of the face and body of the broken warrior returning to his country, disillusioned by the lies that sent him to war and a leader who jokes about non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.” Tomas begins his new life paralyzed from the chest down in a wheel chair. City riding in an unarmored Humvee on his first mission into Sadr City, he had been shot above the collarbone.
In the front row with us was one man who has lived his life this way since Vietnam, Ron Kovic (pictured here with Marcy Winograd), author of “Born on the Fourth of July,” which became the Oliver Stone movie of the Vietnam generation’s war.
“Body of War” is that film for the Afghanistan/Iraq generation showing what Tomas now must endure to adjust to this changed life and take care of himself. Scenes include his marriage, discussion of sex with a Vietnam vet with a similar injury, and the demonstration in Washington with the Gold Star Families whose sons and daughters did not come home. We all cried with them as they reached out and touched the son who had returned.
Overlaid between scenes of Tomas’ new life is the roll call that took us to war. We watch as our senators parrot the White House talking points, almost word for word, and vote FOR the war. California’s own Dianne Feinstein and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are joined by Democrats such as Bayh (IN), Breaux and Landrieu (LA), Cantwell (WA), Reid (NV), Schumer (NY) and, of course, Lieberman (CT). For the complete roll call, go here.
The final moments of the film are with now 91-year-old Senator Robert Byrd, who as the lone voice implored his Senate colleagues to NOT rush the vote for war. Senator Byrd meets with Tomas in his Senate office and carefully takes down the framed list of the vote and honored the “Immortal 23” who in HJR114 stood with him against the race for war. He called it the most important vote he had ever cast. From the record he slowly reads:
Akaka (D-HI), Bingaman (D-NM), Boxer (D-CA), Byrd (D-WV), Chafee (R-RI),
Conrad (D-ND),Corzine (D-NJ), Dayton (D-MN), Durbin (D-IL), Feingold (D-WI),
Graham (D-FL), Inouye (D-HI), Jeffords (I-VT), Kennedy (D-MA), Leahy (D-VT),
Levin (D-MI), Mikulski (D-MD), Murray (D-WA), Reed (D-RI), Sarbanes (D-MD),
Stabenow (D-MI), Wellstone (D-MN), and Wyden (D-OR)
The film ends with Tomas Young in his wheelchair and Senator Byrd with his cane leaving the capitol together, both having “mobility issues” and both not knowing what tomorrow shall bring.
Winner of the Best Documentary award from the National Board of Review, the film is the collaboration of Phil Donahue (pictured here) and Ellen Spiro as co-producers. Eddie Vetter provided the original soundtrack music.
It is currently showing for ONE WEEK at the Nuart theater in Los Angeles,
(310) 281-8223, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West LA (Just west of the #405)
Go to the Body of War website for links to other cities where it is currently playing.
Linda Sutton, review and photos