So a first time female director wants to do something meaningful, and hits on an extremely dramatic story which should have been torn from the headlines but which was actually pretty much swept under the rug.
True story: A good cop like Kathryn Bolkovac could, in the late 90’s, get hired as a contract peacekeeper in postwar Bosnia and expect to make a lot of money. What she wouldn’t expect is to find that the contractor she was working for was using UN resources to run a human trafficking ring for fun and profit. Bolkovac, astounded and horrified, tried to expose the ring and got fired. She sued and won and some progress was made though this sort of thing almost certainly continues to happen.
Not the most innovative filmmaking you’ll ever see but kudos to everyone concerned for making it happen and possibly helping to raise some awareness.
This collection got a good review in the New Yorker earlier this year, and since it’s subject is one I’ve been interested in, I got hold of it and read it this summer. I’ve kept up pretty well with the journalism from the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The literature of a war takes longer to emerge.
It’s a strong and admirable collection, but it’s not a great one. The stories are straightforward, sometimes even programmatic enactments of the awful conflicts our returning soldiers face, without much aesthetic ado. That’s fine, and honest, and valuable, and I was very pleased to learn that Klay’s just taken home the National Book Award for 2014, since the attendant rise in sales will likely bring this subject matter into the lives of a lot of people who haven’t yet come to understand the challenges veterans face today.
But if you’ve been tracking those challenges through the myriad nonfictional sources (e.g., Thank You for Your Service, David Finkel; Lethal Warriors, David Philipps; Homefront, Richard Hankin; and so many excellent public television documentaries), Klay’s book will likely feel pretty flat in comparison.