A new documentary by a UO professor offers a poignant study of the lives of men and women struggling with their experiences of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, exploring their politics as well as their complex feelings about their military service.
The film, called Grounds for Resistance, tells the story of Coffee Strong, a G.I.- run nonprofit coffeehouse near the gates of the U.S. Army base at Fort Lewis, Washington. The film was produced by Lisa Gilman, an associate professor of folklore and English at the UO, who visited the café while conducting research on active-duty service personnel and the music they listen to while deployed (see fall 2010 Cascade).
While she had never produced a full- length documentary, Gilman decided Coffee Strong would be the ideal subject for her directorial debut because “what they were doing was so compelling,” she said.
Coffee Strong was started in 2008 by a small group of young war veterans, whose experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated their interest in creating a safe social gathering place for soldiers, veterans, and military families—especially those with disaffected views of the military and those looking for help assimilating to life outside the combat zone. The shop was inspired by the Vietnam-era G.I. coffeehouse movement.
Watch a clip from the documentary:
At Coffee Strong, soldiers and veterans find counseling and resources for issues such as posttraumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, discrimination, re-entry into civilian life, stop-loss redeployment, and medical and legal problems. Services also include counseling for those seeking options for leaving the military early.
For soldiers and veterans, coffee is free.
Gilman made the 50-minute movie on the shoestring budget of $10,000. It premiered May 14 in Olympia, Washington, and has since been screened on campus and at the Bijou Art Cinemas in Eugene; at the Clinton Street Theater in Portland; and at the 2011 national Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace conventions in August.
Future screenings are planned for Oklahoma, Vermont, Wisconsin and the 2011 annual meeting of the American Folklore Society. Gilman also plans to submit the documentary to film festivals.
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