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                        Excerpts from A Roundtable Interview with Kim Peirce

                        Director of “Stop/Loss”

                        Dallas , Texas

                        March 13, 2008

 

KP:  It seemed to me that the emblematic story of America was boys signing up, after 9/11, for patriotic reasons, to defend their country, their home, their family, you know, a lot of times guys were going on the buddy program…They go over there and they have that profound experience that nearly every soldier I’ve talked to has had, which is, what it’s really about is survival, protecting the guy to your left and the guy to your right, putting somebody else’s life ahead of your own, going into battle, and then the challenges of coming home. 

Outlook:  This movie is in many places hard to watch.

KP:  The brutality I’m writing about is coming from our culture.  This is about our families and our friends and what we’re going through.  I’m very moved by the soldiers’ stories.  In order to get it right, I had to go deep inside their psyches, their worlds, their experiences.  That was the only way to tell the story. 

Outlook:  Where did the idea come from to make this movie?

KP:  It came directly from my experience with 9/11.  I’d been living in New York for 13 years, and when the Towers were hit, my friends were calling me, saying, “Can I come over?  Can I come over?”  So I spent the day with my closest friends, and we were devastated, as everybody was.  New York was in a state of mourning.  I don’t know if people who weren’t in New York realized that.  People were wandering the streets wondering if their loved ones were still alive.  America declared war.  It was very obvious to me that we were in the midst of a seismic cultural change.  I immediately knew that I was in love with the idea of these soldiers who immediately enlisted, risking their lives for their country, not knowing what was ahead, not knowing how they would be trained, not knowing what the terrain would be like, and they didn’t know what it would be like to come home.  I’ve always been a fan---meaning having a deep respect---for the history of war, and how films have tried to capture that:  “Best Years of Our Lives,” “Patton,” “All’s Quiet On The Western Front,”  then the newer stuff, “Battle Of Algiers,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Deer Hunter,” “Born On The Fourth Of July,” “Coming Home”…those are movies that move me deeply.  And I knew that we were in for some profound changes.  So I started looking at the soldiers.  Not long after that, my baby brother told us that he was enlisting.  Actually, he told my mother, who called me, and asked if I could please talk him out of it.  Then when I called him, he said, “Don’t try to talk me out of it.  I’m going.”  That really set in motion a profound experience for all of us.  We had a grandfather who fought in World War II, but this was my baby brother.  I was IM-ing him all the time, from the day he landed in Kuwait , and all through Iraq .  My mother was terrified.  She said to me, “You’ll never know what fear is, until you’ve had a child shot at in a combat zone.”  She oftentimes wouldn’t come home from work, because that’s when they always came then to deliver the news that your son was killed, so she figured if she wasn’t there it wouldn’t happen.  Becoming a military family again was very intense.  But I couldn’t interview him, because he said, “My job is a professional soldier.  I’m trained to fight, not to think.  And if you ask me to think too deeply about this, I could get killed tonight on guard.”  So my interviews with the other soldiers were also shedding light on him.  It became clear to me that I wanted to tell the emblematic story of this generation.  And while they signed up for patriotic reasons, they found out it was about camaraderie.  Their frustration was, “They’re not letting us fight it the way we need to win it.  If we continue to have to fight in these urban and suburban zones, we’re going to kill innocent people---how could we not?---and we will continue to lose men.  And they will be crippled.”  And that was heartbreaking for the people who prided themselves in being leaders.  Then, when they came home, they just wanted to get out.  But now the military won’t let them out.  “Stop-Loss” is a backdoor draft.

Outlook:  Has the movie been received well by the vets themselves?

KP:  Incredibly so. They’re saying, “You got it right.”  And what’s amazing is that many of them want to go back.  When I ask them “Why?”, they say, “Because being home and being a husband and a father is incredibly hard…And I miss my guys.”

Outlook:  Did making this affect your view of the war?

KP:  Yes, very much.   It taught me that camaraderie is what binds these people together.  It moved me, because that’s such a human thing.  But the tragedy and the remorse of feeling like they were sitting ducks, that they couldn’t protect themselves, that they were accidentally killing innocent people---men will be devastated their entire lives.  It deepened my awareness of the sensitivity of the human psyche.  And how deeply impossible this situation is for our soldiers.  And that breaks my heart.  And I’m scared and concerned about what happens when all these men do come home.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas