invisible warWhile we’ve all been caught up in the buzz of this year’s Academy Awards, deliberating over nominations and who’ll win what, it’s a contender from last year’s event which is now set for a theatrical release in the UK, as we solemnly prepare for Kirby Dick’s unsettling Oscar nominated documentary The Invisible War.

The film makes for a bleak affair, as we investigate the heartbreaking epidemic of rape within the US military. Predominantly focusing on female soldiers, we look into the lives of various, mentally (and in some cases physically) scarred women, who have been raped by their fellow servicemen, even those in hugely prominent roles. The invisible war of which we explore, so to speak, is that of which the inculpable victims face when attempting to report the incident, as the flawed institution often perpetuates and refuses to deal with the sexual abuse, while in some cases, the very people that are to be reported to, are the perpetrators themselves.

Dick does a fine job setting his story, as we’re introduced to the various subjects, such as US Coast Guard Kori Cioca and Air Force worker Jessica Hinves, in their regimental positions first, not as rape victims. They each give some background information about themselves and their rank and what they’ve achieved, before we proceed to delve into their sexual abuse cases. It’s effective to see them as powerful, important people before exploring their fragility, and the immense suffering they have been caused as a result of their ordeals.

Given the upsetting and powerful themes being explored, an incredible amount of anger is provoked from this picture, as you feel so much frustration at how inept and disgraceful the system is, while an overwhelming sense of hopelessness sweeps over you. The fact nothing is being done is simply infuriating. However, The Invisible War feels like more of an important piece of filmmaking than a particularly ingenious one. The way the themes are presented is perfectly competent, but nothing is groundbreaking from a technical perspective, as Dick abides by the conventions of the documentary format.

Where this picture is truly triumphant, is within the significance of its very existence. This film simply needs to have been made, and it needs to be seen, because it’s probing a sadly prevalent and yet completely disregarded horror of sexual abuse in the military. One of the leading themes to this title is how the claims aren’t treated respectfully and are overlooked, as the inclination to cover up these incidents and to sweep them under the carpet is arguably as big a crime as the original case. So let’s be sure this film isn’t ignored too – because, as distressing as it may be, it will enlighten us to a world largely unbeknown to us, a world we need to know exists.