The Making of Of Men and War
The filmmaker secured exclusive and unprecedented access to bear witness and become part of the lives of 12 new veterans and their families. He traced their journeys through 14 months in residential therapy and more than four years of the veterans’ family life. During and after therapy, Of Men and War seeks to depict the aftermath of war through the lens of trauma therapy.
Of Men and War takes place at The Pathway Home, founded by veteran therapist Fred Gusman in Yountville, California. For the duration of production, director Laurent Bécue-Renard was granted full access to the facility, where, over five months of quiet observation, he gained the trust of the veterans and their therapist. Only then did Bécue-Renard begin filming every aspect of the veterans’ lives – including their intense trauma therapy sessions.
The therapeutic process allowed soldiers to grasp what they did, endured, and witnessed – and to understand how those experiences mold who they are today. PTSD can be neither cured nor forgotten, but, in articulating trauma, the warriors can work to find their way forward through the pain.
Bécue-Renard’s camera played a significant role in the soldiers’ therapy, as they came to perceive the filming itself as an additional glimmer of hope. Consciously or not, the veterans began to sense that voicing their brutal experiences might uncover deeper meaning; through the film, their stories might contribute to a greater public consciousness of the hardships veterans confront long after the war’s end.
Bécue-Renard filmed the soldiers speaking for the first time ever about their experiences on the front lines. After each of the protagonists graduated therapy, the filmmaker continued detailing their return home to families who suffered through the war alongside their husbands, sons, and fathers. Over ten years in the making, Of Men and War offers a unique opportunity for veterans to tell their stories - for themselves, for each other, and for us.
Veterans and Post-Traumatic Stress
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought over 2.6 million new veterans home to the United States. According to Pentagon estimates, up to a third of combat veterans struggle with war-related post- traumatic stress (PTSD).
Many soldiers come home, hoping to turn the page on their war experience. After their service, these young newlyweds and fathers expect good jobs in the civilian world, thanks to their discipline and a G.I. Bill-financed education. Most of them have passed a military psychiatric screening – all is in order and there’s no reason suspect otherwise.
Something doesn’t quite click though. The war resurfaces in nightmares and panic attacks. A sudden noise might trigger a flashback. Other times, all it takes is a disagreement with a spouse or an ambiguous look from a stranger. Then the groundswell takes over – all that was buried from the war boils up and lashes out.
Newspaper articles abound about young veterans and drug abuse, domestic violence, or suicide. The number of soldiers needing treatment, which has climbed to over half a million, has overwhelmed the US Veterans Administration.
The Pathway Home, however, marks a turning point in these tragic narratives. Founded by Fred Gusman in 2008, The Pathway is an independent residential treatment program. A therapist and social worker, Fred pioneered revolutionary post-Vietnam PTSD programs at the Veterans Administration in the late 1970s. At the Pathway, nestled in the idyllic Napa Valley town of Yountville, he developed a program for veterans who might otherwise slip through the cracks.
The men in Of Men and War stand for hundreds of their fellow warriors at the Pathway – as well for the millions of other veterans in world who continue to battle PTSD.
For more information on The Pathway Home, please visit www.thepathwayhome.org