Life is ever changing but art is constant in its moment -- a snapshot in time where we see ourselves looking at ourselves. When we look at the military rape documentary The Invisible War, what do we see? We see a military where defenders are defenseless against their peers. But we also see men and women rising up against the strongest peer pressure imaginable and saying "enough."
This film is both constant and catalyst. It is constant because those brave moments of courage are forever grafted onto our consciousness -- the woman gang-raped in Alaska, the young virgin whose father tearfully says, "You are still a virgin because he can't take what you didn't give." The man who took years to tell his wife of his sexual assault. The lawyer whose skills honed in defense of others were inadequate to defend herself against the military rape enablers who dishonored and discharged her. It is catalyst because of the sea change in public opinion since the filmmakers unearthed secrets of rape and military sexual trauma.
As life changes -- as rape laws and mores evolve -- we can look back at the release of The Invisible War and say "that was the moment in time when people refused to be victims but instead survivors. When people broke through the invisibility of silence cloaked in shame to say 'Not Invisible.' When survivors spoke up so that others could stand up and move into a different moment." We look back and see how a movie captured a moment and sparked a movement.
When the military looked at The Invisible War, it saw itself looking at itself and declared -- at the highest levels -- this is not who we want to be anymore. Prior to the film there was an unreliable system of justice for servicemen and women. Rapists too often got a pass -- now survivors have special victims units (SVUs) and Judge Advocate General (JAG) support. Now rapists are being prosecuted and dismissed at higher rates, Congress has passed and President Barack Obama has signed laws to ban convicted sex offenders and protect survivors and the incoming Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has pledged to implement these policies.
The filmmakers are nominated for an Academy Award for their artistic excellence in capturing art constant in its moment. But their success goes beyond Oscar -- their victory is in creating art that sparked lasting cultural and political change. Like the African-American civil rights movement that desegregated the military and the LBGT civil rights movement that ended Don't Ask, Don't Tell, The Invisible War has sparked a survivors' justice movement that will help troops serve in safety and reinforce the essential goodness of the vast majority of service members who protect and defend our country with honor.
Many great documentaries have been nominated for Oscars, yet few if any have done so much to actually change culture and policy as quickly as The Invisible War. With or without the Oscar statuette, in forcing an unflinching, uncomfortable look at ourselves, in making the invisible visible, and in sparking lasting change, The Invisible War takes the gold.