Sunday, May 27, 2012

Remember Our Forgotten Men: Memorial Day Movies

Posted By on Sun, May 27, 2012 at 10:00 AM

While Memorial Day was established to honor fallen soldiers, what better way to honor their memory than to see to it that those who survived are welcomed back home.

Among the greatest surprises in my film going experience is this final number from Mervyn LeRoy's Gold Diggers of 1933, a pre-code backstage musical featuring elaborate Busby Berkeley choreographed dance numbers.

Trojan Horsed into the film's climactic finale is this poignant and striking indictment of the treatment of World War I veterans, depicted as homeless, neglected, and down & out.

The juxtaposition of stark politics, and grim reality with the lavish fantasy of a stage musical is revelatory.

What's old is new again as contemporary filmmakers address some of these same issues with documentaries showcasing the lives of returning veterans:

Oscar-nominated doc Hell and Back Again slated to air on PBS' Independent Lens on Monday May 28, (I've looked and can't seem to find it on any of the local channels - please add times to the comments section if you can find them) follows US Marine Sergeant Nathan Harris, 27 as he returns home from Afghanistan in the Wounded Warrior Regiment at Camp Lejeune recovering from a gunshot wound.

Watch Oscar-Nominated Hell and Back Again Comes to PBS on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly's The Way We Get By (which won a multitude of prizes at film festivals including the 2009 Atlanta Film Festival) is another terrific film addressing returning soldiers. Its examination of three troop greeters also raises questions of aging, loneliness, morality, mortality, and sacrifice.

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