An American Soldier

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PARK CITY -- Clay Usay is one helluva a salesman. A Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army, Usay inspires young men and women to sign up for duty, even with the sword of Iraq clearly over their heads. A comprehensive, even-keeled depiction of today's recruiting process, "An American Soldier" brims with insight and drops us on the domestic front-lines of our military.

Like documentary masters such as Frederick Wiseman, filmmaker Edet Belzberg pierces the armor of a powerful institution by smartly letting her camera capture what is going on. Devoid of any political slants, "An American Soldier" is an even-handed, complex portrait of, as Walter Cronkite might have said, the way it is.

In this wayward situation --- five years into a war with Iraq -- the U.S. Army faces daunting challenges in securing troops. Nonetheless, recruiter Sgt. First Class Usay scores winning numbers. In this smack-dab into the middle of things, we see Usay up close and personal. An engaging and neighborly man, Usay trolls the low-waters of Houma, La., (just east of New Orleans) for able bodies.

Like most successful professionals, Usay believes in what he is doing. A family man of decency and bravery, Usay is a soldier in the finest sense. He's been battle-tested, and has bravely served in harms-way. His straight-shooting candor attracts teens to him. As we see, many of those receptive to his pitch are from troubled homes and don't expect much out of life.

This red-white-and-blue military man raises their spirits and builds their confidence. In extolling the Army benefits, soldier Usay inspires these young people that the Army truly offers the best chance for being all they can be. Usay bonds with his young charges, and, as often as not, serves as a big-brother/father-figure. Clearly, he instills that the U.S. Army is family.

Tracing three of Usay's recruits from sign-up through basic training, filmmaker Edet Belzberg conveys the recruits' innocence. We see their inspirations and their disillusionments. And, we feel their fears. That's the power of "An American Soldier," we seemingly walk in their boots.

No mere political tract, "An American Soldier" scopes its sights on the human side, and thus clarifies a troubling and complex process.

AN AMERICAN SOLDIER
(no production company listed)
Director/Screenwriter: Edet Belzberg
Producer: Alex Olman
Directors of photography: Edet Belzberg, Rosanna Rizzo
Editors: Chad Beck, Adam Bolt
Running time -- 87 minutes
No MPAA rating
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