When there is a film as powerful as The Invisible War, that sense of communality is almost essential to the experience. This year I focused my filmgoing predominantly on documentaries, always the high point of Sundance. This one, by Kirby Dick, exposes a subject – the high prevalence of rape in the military – that, amazingly, has never before been addressed in a movie. A succession of servicewomen and one serviceman recount their horrific stories as the statistics pile up: About 500,000 women have been sexually assaulted in the US military (and about 80 percent of assaults go unreported).
An estimated 30 percent of female soldiers and at least 1 percent of male soldiers are sexually assaulted during their enlistment – by their fellow soldiers. Only 2 percent of those accused of assault are convicted. The film calls for nothing less than an overhaul of the justice system so that victims feel safe in reporting these crimes and attackers are punished.
One of the interviewees, Kori Cioca, is unable to get disability relief for serious injuries sustained in her attack while serving in the US Coast Guard. She says she can't imagine a life without pain. After the film's public screening, the producer was approached by a local couple who said they would pay for all of the soldier's medical bills. When told of the gift, Cioca, and everyone within earshot, started sobbing.