Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Grassroots groundswell

Since recent local screening of ‘The Invisible War’

Express Staff Writer

“The Invisible War,” a 2012 documentary, was nominated for an Academy Award. Courtesy photo

    It’s something in the way we’re moved.
    Audiences who got to the Family of Woman Film Festival’s opening-night Academy Award-nominated documentary film, “The Invisible War,” have come away with a burning desire to do something, anything, than merely witness the lack of response by the military to the emotional and physical trauma faced by American servicewomen who have been raped by their own troops.
    According to festival founder Peggy Goldwyn, who now co-chairs the annual event with photographer Stephanie Freid-Perenchio, many valley residents have expressed a desire to help survivors of military sexual trauma.
     “I am in awe of this community’s uniqueness in showing a willingness to be a part of something bigger than ourselves,” said Perenchio. “The outpouring has been overwhelming.”
    Since the film festival last month, Perenchio said people have come out of the woodwork to help. She said some have been volunteering to write letters to senators, others have asked about helping fund surgical repair and a group is in conversation with the film’s maker, Amy Ziering, “to create a center here to accommodate veterans with [military sexual trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury], as well as the healing process for re-entry into civilian life.”
    Ziering and the director of the film, Kirby Dick, have launched the Artemis Rising Invisible War Recovery Program with a generous grant from a philanthropist dedicated to finding nonpharmaceutical healing modalities in trauma treatment and recovery. Trina McDonald, who was part of the pilot two-week program, and who appeared in the film, also spoke onstage in Sun Valley about the changes that the program had brought to her life.
    “I’m no longer constantly scanning for danger, and I have fewer nightmares,” she said.
    The festival donated a portion of the proceeds from the screening to valley nonprofit Higher Ground, which engages wounded and traumatized veterans in therapeutic recreation.  
    McDonald is returning to participate in a panel titled “Returning Home,” (see related story on C1) on April 4 at Hailey’s Liberty Theatre. The discussion is part of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts’ exhibit “Home Front.”
    The festival, which raises funds for the United Nations Population Fund by spotlighting films dedicated to the conditions of women around the world, will soon establish a date and location for a second screening of “The Invisible War,” while McDonald is here.
    “If Peggy and I can be a part of raising questions, provoking debates and inspiring conversations and collaborations through the films we show at the Family of Woman Film Festival, then we’ve done our job,” Perenchio said. “We’d like to direct anyone who’s interested in helping these women veterans to visit to learn more about the Artemis Rising Invisible War Recovery Program and the other opportunities for giving assistance.”
    Added Goldwyn, “‘The Invisible War’ has brought the country’s attention to the unfair treatment these women have received at many levels. It’s up to the rest of us to keep the momentum going and achieve real change.”

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