'In Country': Film Review

Courtesy of Doc NYC
Quirky-sounding subject leads to new perspectives on real-world soldiers

Who would willingly re-create the Vietnam War?

The term "war reenactor" typically indicates those peculiar men whose fanaticism for military history leads them to put on archaic costumes and pretend they're fighting the Civil War or American Revolution. War's hell and all, but one might understand someone's interest in reconnecting with battles that, at least from the distance of a century or two, can be viewed with more moral clarity than America's current wars. But what could motivate someone to reenact the war in Vietnam? Mike Attie and Meghan O'Hara seem to ask this question with In Country, a thoughtful doc that eventually proves to concern much broader questions about warriors' reentry into the civilian world. Fest and small-screen auds should appreciate this novel perspective on a subject often addressed in the doc arena.

Intriguingly, play-acting such a recent war means that some of the participants took place in the real thing: Though the bulk of these men who collect period-correct gear and rehearse appropriate slang (including racial epithets) are young men, they are joined by aging vets like Bummy, who shares memories of actual battles, and even by Vinh, who fought for the Republic of Vietnam from 1970 to 1975.

The attitudes of these older men present one psychological path for the film, which incorporates a good deal of historical film and other material to talk about the Vietnam experience. This blends rather well with a look at another subset: the young reenactors who don't just fantasize about battle but have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. For some of these soldiers, spending a few days in an ersatz war zone helps them endure the notoriously difficult transition between war's trauma and civilian boredom. The world of In Country may sound like a joke to outsiders, and may well be a misguided hobby for some of its subjects. But the film suggests we'd make a big mistake to write it all off as foolish fantasy.

 

Production company: Oscar Alfa MoPic

Directors-Producers: Mike Attie, Meghan O'Hara

Director of photography: Mike Attie

Editor: Lindsay Utz

Music: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans

 

No rating, 80 minutes

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