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This is Not a War Story

Drama, Hybrid, War, Trauma 1h 51m 2021

Timothy Reyes (DANNY RAMIREZ) hustles through the NYC subway system. Oblivious passers-by don’t notice he is popping pills, fading, killing himself. Discovered dead on an empty train, no one knows him to be a combat veteran. His mentor, Will LaRue (SAM ADEGOKE) blames himself and wrestles with the guilt and a resurgence of his own demons from war. His refuge: a multi-generational community of artist veterans, who make handmade paper out of military uniforms. Shredding them, pulverizing them - uniforms are reconstituted into paper, onto which the veterans express their rage, humor, memories, and hopes, in the form of art and poetry. Into this community arrives Isabelle (TALIA LUGACY) - a veteran who recently returned home, only to find a home more alienating and hostile than being at war. Her family and estranged mother (FRANCES FISHER) can’t fathom or accept her identity as a Marine. Will and Isabelle forge a tenuous alliance in this community of mostly white male veterans, and Isabelle’s increasing fixation on Will as some kind of savior or teacher digs directly against his private struggle to accept Timothy’s suicide and intensifies his self-blame for failing to save him. The confrontations and the bond between Will and Isabelle propel them into a deeper questioning of themselves, and into what it means, finally, to want to live.

This hybrid narrative film features a supporting cast of Iraq and Vietnam veterans, as well as their original artwork, poetry, and music - and was produced over three years as an ongoing collaboration with a thriving community of veteran artists and papermakers.

Through the process of shredding uniforms, writing poems, exposing their art to the public, and telling stories in confidence within their group, the veterans in THIS IS NOT A WAR STORY find a way to give their suffering voice and clarity. Their critique of war, and of their own roles within it, form the apex of the film’s rallying anti-war cry and is a depiction of the guilt, the moral injury, that leads so many veterans to suicide.