TCFF 2016 Review: Iron Will: A Veteran's Battle with PTSD

Iron Will shatters perceptions and shows men who are going through very normal behaviors when dealing with such heavy things.
  |   Comments

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is something many people may recognize but few seldom really know.  When I first heard the word, the image that popped into my head was of Apocalypse Now when Martin Sheen was in the hotel room before his mission started. Most of us associate the word as something veterans get for being in the war too long.  The common stereotype I can think of, and this is a totally made up scenario, let's say you're at a family dinner and your uncle, who is a Vietnam vet, asks what everyone wants to eat.  Cousin Paul, who normally doesn't think before he speaks, says that there is a great new Vietnamese place that just opened up.  Hearing those words causes your Uncle to duck behind a couch, yelling and screaming that Charlie is all around us.  Iron Will shatters those perceptions and shows us men who are going through very normal behaviors when dealing with such heavy things.

Director Sergio Valenzuela is a great person to have on board for this subject.  He has been battling the same condition for several years and is able to get these great men to open up and admit things no one else should have to endure. These men have experienced things that unless you are a soldier will never fully understand.  I praise Valenzuela greatly on making his subjects always appear warm and inviting. These are guys who are warm, insightful, and very funny.  They are not the gun-loving, uber-patriotic soldiers most would have associated with having this problem. They are very much just regular guys.  

I'd also like to thank Valenzuela, along with producers Tim VandeSteeg and writer Zax Adams, for not making a political statement with this film  Iron Will: A Veteran's Battle with PTSD is not pro war or anti war.  It's simply more concerned with giving light to this situation and letting others know that there are programs and people who can help.  While I do appreciate the film teaching me more about PTSD than I ever knew about, I also feel that there was one key thing that was missing from making it perfect.

As mentioned previously, Valenzuela is a man who was going through PTSD prior to making this film. He has more insights into what these soldiers go through than any other filmmaker tackling the same topic. I was kind of surprised he didn't make himself the main subject to have him explain the whole situation from joining the Army until now.  I think that would have helped in letting the general audience know a little bit more about the situation because we would have the central emotional core with him and his family.  While the film does have some nice heartfelt confessions from the other soldiers including some from Valenzuela and his wife, I really wanted the central narrative of this documentary to be on him because he was making it.  Instead, what is presented is a talking-heads documentary where it shows each person talking about his or her experiences in dealing with PTSD.  In having Valenzuela be the main character mixed with the other stories of the soldiers, it would have given the film more insight.  

You can learn more about this movie and PTSD by vising the website.

This one of of the many films presented at The Twin Cities Film Fest.  Learn more about how you can become a member by visiting their website.

Follow Us