Excerpts from A Roundtable Interview with Kim Peirce
Director of “Stop/Loss”
March 13, 2008
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.
movie is in many places hard to watch.
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.
did the idea come from to make this movie?
came directly from my experience with 9/11.
I’d been living in
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
was in a state of mourning. I
don’t know if people who weren’t in
realized that. People
were wandering the streets wondering if their loved ones were still
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
, and all through
. 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.
the movie been received well by the vets themselves?
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
making this affect your view of the war?
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