By Michael A. Behrens, Director DocFilm institute
November 4, 2012
The next DocFilm Forum explores methods of documenting the war experience with two very special guests. Join me for a conversation November 13 at 6:30 pm at SFSU’s Coppola Theater with Rory Fanning, author of the new book Worth Fighting for: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America and Daniel Bernardi, Interim Dean of the College of Liberal and Creative Arts at SFSU, Commander in the Naval Reserves and the Founder of Veteran Documentary Corps. Both Rory and Daniel have unique methods for decoding their experiences as combat veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is Rory’s first book documenting his walk across the US for the Pat Tillman Foundation after two deployments to Afghanistan with the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion. Bernardi’s goal is to record the stories of 100 veterans by the end of 2016 in order to help give voice to the veteran experience and help build bridges between civilians and service men and women.
As the US continues to engage in conflicts around the world it becomes increasingly important to discuss and dissect both the experiences of veterans and the methods they deploy to understand and tell their stories. Fanning, who works for Haymarket Books in Chicago was recently quoted in an Op-Ed for TomDispatch, “Stop thanking me for my service, I’m tired of being blindly celebrated.” Civilians that do not understand the full implications of combat service often don’t know how to access and engage veterans and or how to process their experiences. Many of us are guided by what we see on television and in the news and do not have a clear sense of what these conflicts mean to the men and women that serve on our behalf. We fall victim to stereotypes and misleading information that further divides civilians and veterans. There is a big and diverse group of veterans in the US, each with their own unique story and reality. Both Daniel and Rory work hard to understand their own experiences and rather than celebrate the veteran experience help others unravel and process their time in combat. Their approaches help veterans and civilians alike deconstruct and digest the veteran experience so both groups can understand and learn from the conflicts the US involves itself in and take steps toward healing.
DocFilm Forum celebrates story telling and works hard to explore new forms for documenting the diverse stories that contributes to the human experience and pushes and stretches our ideas of what a documentaries are. November 13, we will hear Rory read excerpts from his book and look at new work from Daniel’s ongoing documentary project with a QandA and reception to follow. This is not a celebration or critique of the veteran experience but rather an exploration and ongoing discussion that helps bring civilians and veterans together in order to reveal the implications of sending men and women to war and welcoming them home again.
This event is free to the public. Please RSVP @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Buy Rory’s book here: http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Worth-Fighting-For
“You set out on foot to find things that can be found no other way: your country, yourself, your sense of direction in the most practical and metaphysical selves. In this book Rory Fanning, a young soldier back from the wars, shares the results of his odyssey with those of us who have not walked 3000 miles through wild places and rough weather. His encounters with Americans who might be described as ordinary but are often extraordinary and with himself and the places and their historical backstories make great reading (and maybe most of us are on some version of this quest, whether we know it or not).”
—Rebecca Solnit, author of Wanderlust: A History of Walking
“Rory Fanning’s odyssey is more than a walk across America. It is a gripping story of one young man’s intellectual journey from eager soldier to skeptical radical, a look at not only the physical immenseness of the country, its small towns, and highways, but into the enormity of its past, the hidden sins and unredeemed failings of the United States. The reader is there along with Rory, walking every step, as challenging and rewarding experience for us as it was for him.”
—Neil Steinberg, Chicago Sun-Times
“Fanning combines memoir, travelogue, political tract, and history lesson in this engaging account of his 3,000-mile solo walk from Virginia to California to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation….Fanning’s descriptions of the hardships and highlights of the trip comprise the bulk of the book, and he infuses his left-wing politics into a narrative peppered with historical tidbits, most of which describe less-than-honorable moments in American history, such as the terrorist actions of the Ku Klux Klan and the nation’s Indian removal policies. What stands out most, though, is the selflessness and generosity—which come in the form of stories, hospitality, and donations for the foundation—of the people Fanning encountered during his journey.”
“Partly an evocation of ‘the bloody birth of the nation I now walked through’ and its often troubled history, part memoir of the author’s transformation from conservative Christian soldier to radical atheist and pacifist, part indictment of a foreign policy in which ‘Iraq felt like a bait-and-switch—and a betrayal.’ But mostly it’s about the people he met in the small towns he visited and the encouragement they gave him.”
“Rory Fanning’s transformation from soldier to peace pilgrim is a moving tale told with passion and eloquence. Long after the shooting stops, the soldiers who fight our wars are too often left to fight their personal battles alone. Fanning transforms his disillusionment with war and the military and strikes out for the country on a timeless journey of discovery. As he he traverses America on foot, he finds the radical heartbeat of a nation and builds bridges to people and places that have been left behind. This is a searing, honest, and ultimately hopeful tale of traveling a road from war to peace and justice.”
—David Goodman, co-author, Standing Up to the Madness
“I recommend [this] book enthusiastically…a tale told with wisdom, erudition, kindness, humor, humility, and generosity of which I think Tillman might have been proud.”
—David Swanson, author of Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union
“[Rory Fanning] walks coast to coast to serve a cause, to find himself, and to imagine a better America fit for all the good people he meets along the way and all the good soldiers lost. His hard journey changes him, and it may change you too.”
—Ann Jones, author of They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars
“Worth Fighting For takes us on a journey that will live inside you long after you finish the book. It is not only the physical journey that you make with Fanning as he walks across the country, but it’s the psychological, political and spiritual journey that you accompany him on as well, as he makes sense of his experience in the U.S. military through the lens of the incredible people and history he interacts with on his trek from the Atlantic to the Pacific. With each step and every page, we experience the evolving clarity of Fanning’s politics, worldview, and purpose in life.”
—Jen Marlowe, author, I Am Troy Davis and The Hour of Sunlight: One Palestinian’s Journey from Prisoner to Peacemaker