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Off to War is a 10 episode documentary following the Arkansas National Guard and their tour of Iraq in 2005. More closely the film follows men from Clarkson Arkansas and the families they leave behind.
This film is not your classic action packed, blood n guts war documentary. Although it does contain its fair share of action it is more about the people involved. With seven and a half hours of footage you really get a chance to get to know everyone in the film intimately.
The first thing that struck me about this film is that these soldiers were just ordinary blue collar folks. As National Guard engineers their role up until that point was to help out when there was a flood or bad storm, their training never tailored for a conflict as serious as Iraq. Many of them were overweight, in their 40s and 50s or very young and fresh out of school, blissfully unaware of what they were about to face. You get the sense that they really aren’t very well prepared for the mission. One soldier said, ‘they say you should train for the worst and hope for the best, but we trained for the best and the worst happened.’
In 2004 after the invasion of Iraq was complete there was a lull in the violence. For the men of the Arkansas National Guard it seemed like it was going to be yet another peace keeping occupation. Upon arriving in Baghdad their naivety became short lived as men died and as the violence in the country increased dramatically.
Right from the beginning you worry for the characters in the film. It is that intimate. You worry for their safety, you worry for their families back home. When they are on patrol you feel extra anxiety and hope they get back to base ok. By the end of the film I felt like I personally knew these people. That is why I love this documentary so much and why it is one of my favourites. I am yet to find a war documentary this intimate and that is a shame.
I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable uploading this film because I have a lot of respect for its creators. At $20 you get over 7 hours of footage plus hours of audio commentary . Great value for a great series. A hidden gem I hope you get the chance to enjoy.