Ellison, Jesse, Newsweek
Byline: Jesse Ellison
Can a movie make the Pentagon address its rape crisis?
In his 25-year career, filmmaker Kirby Dick has taken on a host of powerful institutions, and left most of them excoriated in his wake: the Catholic Church (Twist of Faith), hypocritical closeted politicians (Outrage), even the Motion Picture Association of America (This Film Is Not Yet Rated), whose members represent the biggest studios in the country and run the very industry of which Dick is a part.
Add another body to the pile. His latest film, The Invisible War, is an investigation into the ongoing "epidemic" of sexual assault within the U.S. military. It includes the testimony of dozens of women, and a few men, whose experiences in the armed forces included not just rape, but institutional retaliation; former judge advocate general (JAG) officers and investigators who speak of being instructed to treat victims like criminals; and lawmakers frustrated with decades of Pentagon stonewalling.
Dick wisely lets the institution hang itself. He shows a top Department of Defense official getting booted out of a 2008 House subcommittee hearing on military sexual assault for openly defying a congressional directive. In an excruciating display of ineptitude, Dr. Kaye Whitley, the civilian who until last year ran the military's office on rape prevention and response, sits for an interview with Dick and responds to one question after another--easy ones, no hardballs here--with a vapid smile and "that's out of my area of expertise." The Department of Defense comes off looking at best oblivious and at worst vengeful, misogynistic, cruel. …