Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience - Movie Synopsis & Plot
"Operation Homecoming" is a unique documentary that explores the first-hand accounts of American troops through their own words. The film is built upon the Operation Homecoming initiative created by the National Endowment for the Arts to gather the writing of soldiers and their families who have participated in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Through interviews and dramatic readings by such actors as Robert Duvall, Josh Lucas, Beau Bridges, Blair Underwood, Justin Kirk, Aaron Eckhart, Chris Gorham and John Krasinski, the film transforms selections from this collection of writing into a deep examination of the experiences of the men and women who are serving in America's armed forces. At the same time it provides depth and context to these experiences through a broader look at the universal themes of war literature.
The writing in "Operation Homecoming" covers the full spectrum - poetry, fiction, memoir, letters, journals, and essays. The stories recounted here are sad, funny, violent, and uplifting. Yet each one displays an honesty and intensity that is rarely seen in explorations of the war. Through an extraordinary group of men and women, it offers a profound window into the human side of America's current conflicts. The film also includes interviews with great American war writers from other conflicts including Tim O'Brien, James Salter, and Anthony Swofford.
The NEA's Operation Homecoming initiative has collected thousands of pieces of writing from service members and their families. The film takes a handful of this writing as a central element – presenting powerful readings of the soldier's words. These readings are brought to the screen though a variety of innovative filmmaking techniques that push the boundaries of traditional documentary, but avoid clumsy re-creations. Some stories are told through archival news images of the war. Several use striking visual collages to accompany the words of a poem. A few move even farther a field to illustration or animated still photographs, yet always rooted in a reading of the writer's original words.
At the core of the writing in "Operation Homecoming" is a deep desire by all those who have served in war to come to terms with their experiences. Throughout the film the soldiers, young and old, express a profound hope that people will listen to their stories and try to understand what they have seen. As with all of the great war writers, stretching back as far as the Iliad, the soldier writers of "Operation Homecoming" are trying to find meaning in the chaos and brutality of war. The film is a deeply humanizing look at those who suffer the de-humanization of war.