Iraq War Strikes Close to Home for US Director

LOS ANGELES ~ As a director who likes to be emotionally connected to the movies she makes, Kimberly Peirce had no difficulty immersing herself in her latest film.

For Peirce, who shot to fame with the acclaimed Oscar-winning transgender Boys Don’t Cry in 1999, the subject matter of her acclaimed Iraq war drama Stop-Loss struck a very raw nerve.

Taking its title from the US military’s practice of extending a service member’s period of active duty involuntarily, Peirce became aware of the policy through her younger brother, who enlisted in 2001 and later served in Iraq.

“My goal is to make human stories, stories that move me,” Peirce said. “Of course the idea of war is tragic to me, and in a very real sense.

“My little brother fought in Iraq and it had devastating consequences on my mother and my family.”

Peirce’s film, starring Ryan Philippe, focuses on the challenges facing soldiers returning from the battlefront in Iraq to life in a rural Texas community.

Released in US theaters in April, the film has recently been issued on DVD. Peirce is currently campaigning tirelessly to raise awareness of the Stop-Loss policy, calling for it to be scrapped.

The 40-year-old director said her film was not intended to convey an anti-war message.

“My goal wasn’t ‘let’s stop war’ but rather ‘let’s understand the huge consequences that happen when we enter into these conflicts, like what happens to the human beings that are involved, the soldiers, the family,'” Peirce said.

“The way the film has been received in America has been fascinating.”

In the course of researching her film, Peirce traveled the country interviewing soldiers and their families, attempting to gain insight into what she describes as the “emblematic stories of this generation.”

The director believes that has helped distinguish her film from the crop of other Iraq war movies released in the last 12 months that have struggled to make an impact at the box office.

“Those movies may have had a hard time because they came out early on, they may have not been marketed correctly,” Peirce said.

“But what’s really unique about our film is that it’s been inspired by all real soldiers, it’s totally from their point of view. I use their words, their language, their video, and as I’ve gone across America with it, when people have seen it, they love it.”

Peirce says she is optimistic that the practice of stop-loss will be abandoned by whoever wins the November presidential election.

“You can’t keep recycling soldiers, they can’t take it. Their families can’t take it, it’s not working anymore,” Peirce says. “So I think yes, you will see a change.”

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