Review: Uplifting Theme Overshadows Post-Combat Realities in ‘Almost Sunrise’
By Mercedes Vizcaino, Contributing Writer, July 14, 2017
Almost Sunrise, the documentary film from award-winning filmmaking team, Michael Collins (director) and Marty Syjuco (producer) challenges and explores the misconceptions war and the inevitable and consuming effects Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has on the men and women serving our country. Through the inspirational journeys of the film’s subjects, Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, we are immersed in their candid recollection of their experiences in combat and the unconventional methods they seek to help them cope.
The film begins with a homemade video of Tom Voss as a child, dressed in red, white and blue, with flag in hand commemorating Memorial Day. Voss comes from a long lineage of family members in the military and felt obligated to serve at age 19. After returning from his second deployment, Voss felt detached and emotionally unavailable to his girlfriend and family members. Feeling angry and out-of-control with his behavior, Voss decides he needs to make a change and embarks on a pilgrimage to overcome his demons and reclaim his life and feelings of normalcy. Not to be left behind, fellow army veteran and squad mate, Anthony Anderson, joins his friend on the pilgrimage to address his own PTSD issues, and the Veteran’s Trek is formed. The two Iraq veterans set out for self-discovery and reflection with a 2,700-mile journey across America.
Almost Sunrise is an optimistic film, although, it reveals startling facts: every day twenty veterans commit suicide—that’s 7,300 suicides a year! Ultimately, losing more soldiers to suicide than combat. The focus isn’t on the misery endured by these soldiers and many like them returning home from war, but how new methods of treatment practices, such as interaction with nature and meditation, can make a difference in gaining control of their lives and helping them become functioning citizens again. After the documentary won a Moving Mountains Award—a top jury prize recognizing films with a strong social impact—the Almost Sunrise Impact Campaign was born. Its aim is to educate target audiences on “moral injury” and its relationship to the veteran suicide crisis, promote wellness through holistic techniques, connect communities to support veteran reintegration and diminish post-war veteran stereotypes, and lastly, change legislation to promote the VA’s innovative treatment of veterans.
Almost Sunrise is the first feature documentary to offer groundbreaking solutions to the trauma veterans endure during combat. The film premieres at the IFC Center in New York starting today. For more information and showtimes click here.
Cover: Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson in ‘Almost Sunrise;’ Credit: Thoughtful Robot Productions.