(Writer-director Oden Roberts’ A Fighting Season received production funding from the San Francisco Film Society and is now available on VOD starting Friday, May 26 via Fighting Chance Films.)
Writer-director Oden Roberts’ A Fighting Season begins towards the end of Sgt. Mason’s (Clayne Crawford) final tour in Iraq. There is a telling interview sequence with Mason early in the film, during which drastically contrasted shadowing splits his face into light and dark halves, suggesting the split duality of his personality. The anger, paranoia, and unbridled intensity that he inherited from the battlefield exists in dramatic opposition to his good old boy gentility.
Visibly suffering PTSD from traumatic experiences on the battlefield, Sgt. Mason soon finds himself stationed in an Army recruiting office in a rural town somewhere in the middle of the United States. While Mason would much rather be back on the front lines protecting his homeland by killing potential terrorists, his superior officer (Lew Temple) tries to convince him that recruiting newbies into the Army is just as important.
You see, the year is 2006 and we are on the brink of the U.S. troop surge in the region, thus more recruits are desperately needed. Army recruiters are making a living by preying upon defenseless teenagers who are looking to escape small town ‘Merica by offering them easy money, a college education, or a path to avoid prison. Under constant pressure to meet quotas, the recruitment center plays like a military version of Glengarry Glen Ross. Not making their quotas equates to failure, and failure equates to more U.S. soldiers dying on the battlefield due to sheer lack of numbers. In many ways, this atmosphere is just as stressful as what Mason experienced on the front lines of battle.
Their sales tactics are just as we would expect. Sure, there is the aforementioned financial carrots, but there is also the possibility of becoming a national hero like Mason. By joining the Army, you have the chance to destroy evil and protect your country, more specifically, protect your loved ones. Another notable tactic is the superior officer’s reliance upon religion to suggest that the Army is somehow doing the work of the Christian god.
While I expected a film about PTSD, A Fighting Season is not necessarily a film about PTSD. And that’s not such a bad thing. Instead, A Fighting Season does an admirable job of revealing the immoral practices of the Army’s recruiting process, specifically in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Empty promises, blatant lies, and manipulation are all perfectly commonplace, as is sexual harassment of the female recruits. It is an ugly practice that makes Mason’s actions back in Iraq seem not so bad (even though they are quite demented). The proud U.S. citizen in me wonders why the Army would have to go to such extreme (and highly irresponsible) measures to convince U.S. citizens to risk their lives on its behalf, but then reality clicks in.
– Don Simpson (@thatdonsimpson)