The One Oscar-Nominated Movie You Must See

What Women Really Think
Jan. 10 2013 2:53 PM

The One Oscar-Nominated Movie You Must See

137868375
The Invisible War producer Amy Ziering and director Kirby Dick accept an audience award at Sundance

Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images.

Oscar nomination day can be a clarifying experience for viewers who, overwhelmed by the glut of December movie releases, suddenly have a guide to which movies they should actually see. My advice: Scroll way down that list to the documentaries and see The Invisible War.

It's a movie about an incredibly difficult subject: rape in the U.S. military, where sexual assault rates are much higher than in the civilian population, where the culture discourages reporting those rapes, and where, even when reported, prosecutions often just don't happen. But The Invisible War isn't just a great movie because it has a heavy and important topic. It's great because of how it handles it.

Advertisement

First, the movie gives a voice to victims, and in doing so, it methodically shows how sexual assault is driving people who loved their work out of the military. Producer Amy Ziering says that the movie's crew reached out through Veterans Affairs centers and worked to make sure that the assault survivors whose stories they put on screen would have support, both from their friends and families and from the movie's crew after the movie came out.

Second, it's a movie that includes men: as survivors of sexual assault, as people who are struggling to provide their partners with the support they need, and who have had their own faith in the military damaged by chain-of-command rape. The Invisible War presents rape as something other than simply a women's issue, and that's significant.

And finally, like some of 2012's other great documentaries (Central Park Five, which is not nominated, and How To Survive a Plague, which is), it's a damning portrayal of bureaucracy. You cannot walk away from The Invisible War without feeling that the military has totally failed to protect service members from assault, failed to get them support, and failed to get them justice. I'm not sure I've ever witnessed such a fascinating exercise in denial as when Dr. Kaye Whitley, who headed the Defense Department's sexual assault response efforts, insists on camera that the system works just fine. There are a lot of movies you can watch in the coming weeks that will help you win your Oscar pool. But The Invisible War matters more.

Alyssa Rosenberg writes about culture and television for Slate’s “XX Factor” blog. She also contributes to ThinkProgress and theatlantic.com.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 12:43 PM Watch Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey Do a Second City Sketch in 1997
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.