“Almost Sunrise” at Human Rights Watch Film Festival
June 9, 2016. “Almost Sunrise” is the new documentary from director Michael Collins and producer Marty Syjuco. Their previous, and first, feature length documentary was the exceptional and, and much acclaimed, “Give Up Tomorrow” (2011). Their sophomore effort is assurance that these two filmmakers (and their production and post production crews) are here to stay.
“Almost Sunrise” is an insightful and powerful documentary. I have seen it twice and will see it again, on June 13, as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, running from june 10 – 19 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and at the IFC Center
In this blog I have always stated that good documentaries, like narrative films, must have compelling characters. To that end, “Almost Sunrise” is the story of Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, two veterans of the war in Iraq. They decide to walk from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to California, a 2,700 mile journey, in order to bring attention and awareness to the fact that many veterans are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They also undertake the walk to clear their heads and to deal with their own PTSD issues.
“Almost Sunrise” takes, as its premise, the concept of “Moral Injury.” The film tells us, up front, that “A moral injury is a wound to the soul, caused by participation in events that violate one’s deeply held sense of right and wrong.” As Father Keating, who works with veterans, adds, “It’s the raw primitive feeling. I don’t know if I was justified or whether I can be forgiven.”
What I appreciate about “Almost Sunrise” is that it has deepened my knowledge of PTSD. The film accomplishes this through very effectively edited sequences, created by editor Eric Daniel Metzgar. These sequences combine interviews with Voss, Anderson and others, raw combat footage, footage of Voss’s and Anderson’s epic walk and home videos of Voss as a chile. The documentary also also uses an animated map to show where the veterans are in their walk as the film progresses. The fact that “Almost Sunrise” has been beautifully shot, by Clarissa delos Reyes, heightens its impact.
“Almost Sunrise” looks at the impact of PTSD from at least three different points of view. The most prominent one is that of the veterans. The point is made that, when soldiers die, it is not always combat related. Voss states that every day 22 veterans take their lives. The film also looks at PTSD from the point of the families of veterans, and the role of government in addressing, or perhaps not addressing, this issue.
There will be two screenings of “Almost Sunrise,” as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. One will be on June 11 at 9:15pm at the IFC Center (323 Sixth Avenue) and the other will be on June 13 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theatre, located in Lincoln Center. The screenings will be followed by Q&As with Michael Collins, Marty Syjuco and film subjects Tom Voss, Anthony and Holly Anderson.