Operation Homecoming

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The Documentary Group

NEW YORK -- Among its other distinctions, the Iraq war is shaping up to become the most cinematically documented in history. The latest addition to the ever-growing oeuvre is "Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience," Richard E. Robbins' compilation of writings of actual soldiers about their wartime experiences. The film, which recently received its U.S. theatrical premiere at New York's Film Forum, also is scheduled for broadcast as part of PBS' "America at a Crossroads" series this year.

The film's concept is simple. It presents essays, fiction, poetry and other writings from U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq, as assembled for a program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. They are read by a gallery of notable actors, including Robert Duvall, Josh Lucas, Beau Bridges, Blair Underwood, Aaron Eckhart and others.

Director-producer-writer Robbins utilizes a variety of visual techniques to accompany and illustrate the readings, ranging from animation to archival footage to still photographs to visual collages.

Interviews with famous writers about previous wars, including Tim O'Brien, James Salter and Anthony Swofford, provide thematic and historical perspective about the unchanging aspects of combat experience.

The film lacks the raw power of other recent entries in the genre like "The War Tapes," and the episodes vary in terms of interest. But it does provide an illuminating portrait of the mind-set of those men and women serving overseas, providing a valuable reminder of the human cost being exacted.
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