Friday, April 29, 2011

Semper Fi: Always Faithful (2011)

One of the most important films I saw at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, Semper Fi tells the heartbreaking story about the fight to get the Marine Corps and the American Government to come clean about the contamination of the drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The tainted water (the result of leaks and improper dumping), has been responsible for the deaths and illnesses of thousands of people (soldiers, their families, and civilians alike), over a period of decades.

The film is primarily the story of Jerry Ensminger, who has lead the fight as a means of trying to find closure in the death of his daughter, who died of leukemia while he was stationed at the base. Years later Ensminger, by then retired from the Corps, discovered the existence of the contamination while watching the news on TV. Shocked at what the story revealed he began to look into the matter and found it was just the tip of the iceberg.

When the film started I thought I was simply going to see a typical "lone citizen leading a David (Ensminger) and Goliath (the Marine Corps)" story. I was certain that it was going to be filled with all your typical twists and turns, and that in the end I would be pissed off and I would be angry until I dove into the next film at the festival. Instead, I was blindsided, and left broken and sobbing in my seat. I had to struggle to find my way to the next screening.

I knew that I was in trouble when I realized that tears were running down my cheeks for seemingly no reason. I didn't expect it. Hell, there wasn't much of anything occurring on-screen, but there was something about the story and how it was being told that was literally wringing tears from my eyes. By the time we got to the sequence where a government commission invites the public to tell what happened to them, to relate the stories of their losses and illnesses, I was damn near sobbing uncontrollably. I dare you not to cry when one mother tells you about the birth and death of two of her children born with birth defects. The first was born with an exposed spine, and the second was born without a top to its skull. It's one of the saddest things you will hear.

I know you're asking yourself, why would I want you to see such a profoundly upsetting film? Because it's affecting the lives of millions of people, many who probably don't even know about it. You need to see this so that you may be moved to try and help someone you know who may also have been exposed to the danger...and not just in Camp Lejeune, but at other military bases as well (remember I said this story is only the tip of the iceberg). You need to see this so that you can help keep safe the very people who are supposed to keep us safe.

This is one of the best films of the year and it's one of the most important as well. Expect to have your feet knocked out from under you.

Please see this film.

(For more information on Jerry Ensminger, his fight, his group, and the situation at Camp Lejeune, please go to the website The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten.)

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