The recent U.S. involvement in Iraq has become one of the biggest subjects for documentaries in the past few years, and it's hard not to feel weary of watching the variety of movies on this topic, no matter how varied and original they might be. Phil Donahue has contributed to the genre with Body of War, a documentary he co-directed with Austin filmmaker Ellen Spiro (Troop 1500). The movie focuses on the effect that the U.S. conflict in Iraq has had on a single soldier.
Body of War combines two threads of narrative. The first thread follows Tomas Young, who enlisted in the U.S. Army on Sept. 13, 2001 as a reaction to the events of Sept. 11. He ends up being deployed to Iraq, and after only a few days in combat is injured -- a spinal injury. He's paralyzed below the chest and is confined to a wheelchair. Tomas, his bride-to-be and his mom all have to get used to dealing with his range of physical problems as a result of this injury: not only can't he walk, but he's on an ever-changing variety of medications, he can't control his body temperature, he vomits frequently, and experiences sexual difficulties. Meanwhile, his experiences have made him passionately anti-war, and he visits Cindy Sheehan's compound in Crawford, Texas, travels to the offices of several politicians, and speaks out frequently in public.