AIFF Recommendation: Overcoming PTSD in Fort Irwin
War veteran-turned actor, Cristian Valle, plays an all-too-real character in Fort Irwin, as he chooses to reenact a wounded soldier in a hyper-realistic warfare training exercise to help him overcome PTSD.
This great short film written and directed by AFI graduate Quinn Else blends his appreciation for documentary and simple characters into a cinematic eye-opener. Using the (unfortunately common) theme of trauma, Else takes his audience inch-by-inch to the chasm where Cristian must ‘jump or die’ at the height of battle, both internally and externally. Using Fort Irwin’s actual warfare training exercises as the backdrop came after Else took a tourist trip through the base’s exercise grounds, a perspective he also implements in the story.
Opening scenes introduce Cristian, a (real) double amputee, as he straps on his prosthetic legs and sets up the ongoing stress disorder theme he contends with throughout the film. A vehicle backfiring, a mindless phone conversation with his doctor before he nervously hangs up on her, are good jump starters to get the point across there’s something up with this guy.
Reaching the main gate into the base, Cristian begins his journey of confronting the traumas of the past, although this time around getting “geared up” means having special effects prosthetics applied and a pump line to a syringe of phony blood in hand.
As the mock battle explodes open, Cristian’s instincts are amped to full and it’s not entirely certain if he is acting out his role or trying to escape, mentally or otherwise. But at the peak of warfare a subtlety plays out in front of him, something so ordinary it could easily be missed, unless you‘re a war veteran suffering from PTSD.
“…everything we do here is based on reality.”
“…give them a lip-quivering experience.”
Dialogue is minimal in the film, unnecessary as the impressive cinematography and sharp editing whisks us along effectively, and the full effect on Cristian from this pivotal point through the final scene is still questionable, until his closing line.
This is a memorable short film worth watching and reviewing, for anyone, regardless of medical conditions—because Fort Irwingives us that grain of sand, the bit of truth, we all need to create a pearl—the best way to overcome fear is to face it.
Fort Irwin plays continuously in “Short Stories 2: Social Issues” program May 22 – June 14, free for Virtual Festival subscribers.