Tribeca Film Festival: Lioness.
I headed down to the city with my friend Natalie (I'm sure you've all realized, I drag her along with me to pretty much everything) to check out Lioness. After we left Grand Central Station, we jumped into a cab and headed to the theater. However, before the cab could even go four feet, some lady punched the side of the cab and another pedestrian yelled, "lets go ali ababwa." Natalie and I looked at each other and mumbled...did that guy just call our cab driver the prince from Aladdin? He did and I felt so bad for him. We just encouraged him to keep on driving and said, "fuck that guy." Anyways, we finally made it to the theater, got our tickets and waited in line (the line was about five people long). A few others finally trickled in...a man with an Obama pin was behind me. He looked really excited...not for the film, he just seemed excited about life...really smiley and non-threatening. I asked him what brought him out to see the film... and he said, "it seemed interesting." He then asked me the same question, I told him I was a vet and was really excited to see a documentary that just focused on female Soldiers. He thanked me for my service and asked how long I was there. I thanked him for thanking me for my service and told him I really appreciated that...I think this confused him but he said you're welcome. The door guards finally let us in...the theater was beautiful. We kind of had to sit in the nose bleed section because several rows were reserved for people with "badges"-only a hand full of these special people showed up. There were about 40 people in the audience...we were the youngest (well, some guy, who was clearly a vet-he sported his camo jacket and his wife brought their four year old daughter with them)...everyone was in their early 40s to late 50s. The film started with a fawn staring at the camera, then took off running through the woods...she was scared, innocent, and perfect. Then it jumped right into the audience meeting the five females. They were all part of the 1st Engineering Battalion, stationed in Ramadi. I had no idea before seeing this that there were groups of females nicknamed "Lioness", who supported raids. They went out with male Soldiers to search female Iraqis and to ease them while their houses/husbands were being searched. This is obviously controversial because females are banned from direct ground combat...but I suppose they can get away with this because it isn't exactly "direct" combat. The combat they encountered came to them. And if the Military or Congress or whoever, tried to ban females from jobs, missions, situations that could put them in harms way...well there would be no female Soldiers in Iraq. I suppose there is a fine line between all of this. Throughout the film, you learn about each females story and struggles. They all engaged in fire fights, some have killed, they had to prove themselves to the male Soldiers, and you get a glimpse into what war is like through a females eyes. One female, Shannon, was the "best shot" in her platoon and was sent out on several mission...she now collects 100% disability from the government...she has PTSD (she wanted to go to college but she was advised by the VA hosp, that she’s not ready for that and that would reflect in her grades). Another female recently had a baby and her husband was sent back to Iraq, if I can remember correctly two females are still in the Army and one has gotten out. The film is definitely worth seeing...if you don't come out of this film with a new appreciation of what a female can withstand, something is clearly wrong with you. The film itself is delicate, the music is soft, the shots are artsy and make you take everything in (overly long shots on one of the females baby), the directs don't let you forgot that women play multiply roles in society and now they have to find their place again. Whether, they are now out of the Army and become mothers and wives, still in the Army, pursuing careers, or bare the emotional scares of war...America has a new breed of females on their hands.
After the film was over the directors Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers answered questions. Two guys sitting next to Natalie and I got up and left. I don’t really know what one of the guys could’ve asked…he took a nap during the film. Natalie wanted to throw popcorn at him but I told her not to. Maybe that’s Americas problem, everyone’s asleep! Some guy asked the first question…something about a specific group that helped fund the film. He wanted full details. One of the directors answered…she seemed completely annoyed, like…you just watched this documentary and that’s seriously your question. She responded with a one word answer. Loved it. Some lady asked…do these women get respect now? Another guy asked, how are these women treated in the Military? They asked the directors if they were ever in the Military? They weren’t. Someone asked, where are these women now? Another question…are there still Lioness groups now? Which there are. That was pretty much the gist of the questions. I’m sure I’m forgetting a really really brilliant question that was asked, so I apologize.
I learned that one Lioness had died while out on a mission. This happened the same day Anna Nicole Smith died, that’s why America probably didn't hear about it. Gotta love our media!!!!!
If you get a chance, please go see this film!
*After the documentary we headed back to Grand Central Station to go home. However, we were derailed when we saw a huge gathering for May Day… “International Working Class Unity and Independent Political Action.” I won’t go too much into detail…but this pretty much sums it up…“protesting imperialist war and domination, capitalist exploitation and all form of oppression.” I got a ton of newspapers and flyers, took a bunch of photos, saw some band play, listened to people speak (couldn’t really understand too much of it…I’m not really fluent in Spanish), there were tons of Sean Bell posters everywhere, some guy had a huge sign that had President Bush’s face on it with swastikas all over…this caused a few arguments…one girl was yelling about her people dying and how the swastika was disrespectful, another guy was giving the sign holder the middle finger then proceeded to “hail Hitler”…thought there was going to be a fight, met some guy who asked why I was at the gathering…told him I just saw a documentary about female vets, he asked why I went to see it, told him I was vet and then he asked me if I was part of Iraq Veterans Against the War…told him it wasn’t that black and white for me…he seemed confused…I asked him if he has served in Iraq, he said no…I smiled and walked away. Across the street was another gathering…I’ll call this one a protest. It was about 10 strong. They were protesting illegal immigrants. Some crazy lady with red hair just kept on yelling, “Move back to Cuba” over and over again. Funny thing was, they had two cops protecting them…one was Latino and the other Middle Eastern. The day was eventful!