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As Robert Redford’s film A River Runs Through It so vividly demonstrated, fly-fishing can have almost spiritual dimensions. That notion is thoroughly reinforced by Not Yet Begun to Fight, Shasta Grenier and Sabrina Lee’s small-scale but deeply moving documentary about five wounded Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans whose troubled souls are soothed by the gentle activity.
The film’s inspiration is a non-profit Montana organization called “Warriors and Quiet Waters,” founded by Eric Hastings, a retired Marine Colonel and Vietnam vet who says he himself was healed by returning to the river after his traumatic wartime experiences. He’s now eager to share his unique method of catharsis with a new generation of returning vets both emotionally and physically scarred by their tours of duty.
“Fly fishing is a constantly repeating series of occasions for hope,” Hastings rather grandiosely declares at one point. But it’s hard to argue with the assertion, as the film chronicles its positive effects on these wounded warriors, some of them suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They include soldiers who have lost eyes and limbs; one who is a paraplegic; and a former Navy Seal with brain damage who is able to speak only through a computer.
The film has numerous touching moments, such as when a trainer gingerly asks a vet if she has permission to touch him, or Hastings instructing his charges that they must return the fish they’ve caught, as if to gently remind them of the value of all living things.
As we watch the men slowly embrace the slow repetitive rhythms endemic to the sport, its healing aspects soon become manifest. They certainly couldn’t have found a more empathetic figure than Hastings, who at one point comments about the corrosive effects of combat on the soul. His tearful joy in watching the men master their casting techniques amidst the bucolic surroundings is ultimately infectious.
Opens Oct. 25 (Ultraviolet LLC)
Directors: Shasta Grenier, Sabrina Lee
Producer: Sabrina Lee
Executive producers: Harvey Gannon, M.J. Hartwig, Steve Platcow, Shasta Grenier
Director of photography: Justin Lubke
Editor: Shasa Grenier
Composers: Sean Eden, Matthew Buzzell
Not rated, 60 min.
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