Over the past few years, seemingly everyone with access to a cheap digital-video camera and a well-honed sense of outrage has made an angry documentary attacking the Bush administration's handling of the amorphous, never-ending war in Iraq. Patricia Foulkrod's The Ground Truth covers this well-trod territory with passion, commitment, and a thorough disregard for cinematic style. Foulkrod's film focuses on a theme explored extensively in documentaries and countless narrative fiction films: Society can't train impressionable young men to become unthinking killing machines without dealing with the repercussions once the fighting ends.
So why is The Ground Truth so unexpectedly touching and poignant? A lot of it has to do with the heartbreaking testimony of actual soldiers, none of whom seem cognizant that the grubby, low-budget, anti-war documentary has become a ubiquitous indie-film cliché. Foulkrod's subjects communicate with a sense of urgency that belies the familiarity of the film's arguments. The Ground Truth empathetically examines the brutal psychological collateral damage of warfare, and the way the costs of war extend far beyond the battlefield.
In Ground Truth, the casualties of war can be felt not just in injuries and deaths, but also in war-scarred fathers and sons haunted by ineffable sadness and nagging remorse. The film compellingly documents how the consequences of split-second decisions made in the heat of battle can linger for decades. If nothing else, The Ground Truth exposes the poisonous hypocrisy of an administration that gives plenty of lip service to supporting the troops, but has done precious little to help returning veterans readjust to civilian life. Foulkrod's film covers little new ground, but some painful truths are worth repeating.