“I know that a documentary is never completely the truth,” says Heather Courtney. “It is always told through the filter of the director and the production/editing process. But what I strive for is to capture moments that are true, and to tell the story sincerely.” The story she tells in Where Soldiers Come From concerns three young men who go to war. As 20-year-old Dom Fredianelli explains, “I joined the National Guard just for the money,” a decision taken by his buddies Cole Smith and Bodi Meaudoin as well. At the start of the film—which premieres POV 10 November—they’re deep in snow, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s not long before they’re deployed to Afghanistan, part of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2008. The documentary follows the threesome as they make their way to war, a journey that, as the title has it, has as much to do with where they’re from as where they go.
One part of where they come from is comprised of their families. Cole’s sister Lindsay is “pissed that they joined. It’s a bad time to join,” she goes on, “We’ve got such a dumbass in office.” Her brother and his friends are less inclined to express their frustrations (at least in such vivid terms), but as the film follows them to Afghanistan, the effects of the war are painfully evident. Bodi describes the difficulty of his assignment, driving along long stretches of road, knowing an IED might explode at any moment. It’s “like anticipating getting punched in the face,” he says, for hours at a time. Cole internalizes the stress, developing an ulcer and asthma. As Dom contemplates the increasing empathy he feels for the people he meets, Bodi declares that he hates everyone in Afghanistan, thanking “the United States Army” for making him a racist. All three struggle with these effects when they go home: the film reinforces that where they’re from and where they go are equally important in shaping their experiences, the “moments that are true.”
See PopMatters’ review.