Friday, August 22, 2008

Modern-day heroes fight after the battle

Sanders’ documentary finds healing from war

Express Staff Writer

Director Terry Sanders and cameraman Erik Daarstad are on location in Balad, Iraq. Photo by

Terry Sanders, a part-time Sun Valley resident for 30 years, has won two Oscars in documentary film, and the approximately 70 films he has made have won the hearts of audiences everywhere.

In a special screening for the Sun Valley Writers' Conference, Sanders will show his latest project, "Fighting for Life," at the Sun Valley Opera House on Saturday, Aug. 23, from 8-9:30 p.m. Sanders will be present to answer questions.

The film is part of the Sun Valley Writers' Conference but there will be limited seating for non-conference film goers as well.

"Fighting for Life" is an apolitical film on military medicine in the Iraq War. The project came to Sanders unexpectedly and took three and half years to complete. The mother of a medical school student in Bethesda, Md., contacted Sanders to make a film about the Uniformed Services University of the Health Services, which prepares men and women to be armed forces medical doctors. It is known as the best medical school nobody has ever heard about.

"For the last 15 years Congress has wanted to close the school due to financial reasons," Sanders said. "I visited the school and was very impressed on an ethical level and by the faculty and students. The film project started as a rescue effort to put the school on the map. In 2003 and 2004 the Iraq War was still going and the film took off. It became a film about the wounded."

Sanders said the film is a real life "M.A.S.H.," and that he had never been in the combat zone as a filmmaker until this project. The film is a portrait of U.S. military medicine and follows 21-year-old Army Specialist Crystal Davis from Iraq to Germany to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., as she fights to recover from the loss of a leg.

"I always wanted to follow wounded soldiers through the system," Sanders said. "The doctors and nurses are amazing, and there's no politics. What is important and the impact of the film, I hope, will be not to forget the wounded. In 10 to 15 years we may forget about them."

Sanders said his innate curiosity prompted him to become a documentary filmmaker. He said the growing popularity of the genre has brought him much success.

"It is still a struggle and a challenge," Sanders said. "But people crave the emotional impact of watching films because commercial television can be distracting. The news is full of capsules. A feature documentary film is a nonfiction film and can have the emotional impact of a dramatic film."

"Fighting for Life" is a non-profit film, with 10 percent of the ticket proceeds going directly to the Bob Woodruff Family Foundation, which supports wounded soldiers. The screening at the Sun Valley Opera House is free but first consideration is for Writers' Conference attendees.

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