Clare Myers, Staff Writer
The gritty war documentary “Restrepo” is not exactly a heartwarming film.
Nevertheless, junior Mark Gigante walked out of the screening last Wednesday smiling.
“There’s definitely a lot of new faces here,” he said.
The “Restrepo” viewing was part of an initiative by the Alexander Hamilton Society (AHS) to experiment with putting on events in a smaller and more intimate setting. In the past, the organization has sponsored several lectures that have garnered larger audiences. Earlier this month, AHS invited Dan Blumenthal, director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, to campus to give a presentation on the rise of China and its implications for the United States. While events like this draw large crowds, the officers were getting feedback from students who wanted to see events in which they could participate more, according to Gigante, the club’s executive director. A movie showing and discussion was a way to get attendees more involved.
Nearly 30 students gathered in Lynch Auditorium to watch “Restrepo,” a raw documentary on the experience of the common soldier in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. It centers on an isolated posting named “Restrepo,” thought to be one of the most dangerous assignments in the military. The movie focuses on the real experiences of the soldier; according to the movie’s website, “the only goal is to make viewers feel as if they have just been through a 90-minute deployment.”
After the screening, Gigante led a 30-minute discussion. He raised the question of the military’s accountability for casualties and pointed out the country’s “war-weariness.” AHS president Ben Gibbs brought up the thorny issue of the effect of the national attitude toward the war and possible humanitarian interventions.
Many students in the audience spoke up, including Jack Loia, a freshman in training for the Marine Corps, who attended the event with several friends. He commented on U.S. military involvement abroad in general, prompting a discussion with many others in the crowd. The film’s emphasis on the experiences of the common foot soldier may have played a role in drawing him and his friends, most of whom were also in training for the military, to the event.
“We came because we wanted to know … how to be better officers,” he explained.
The organization chose “Restrepo” in part for its connection to other events AHS has hosted that focus on diplomatic relations between the U.S. and foreign countries.
The officers were looking for another kind of continuity as well.
“We’re always looking for younger members,” said Gigante. He explained that as the leaders of the organization move closer to graduating, they are keeping an eye out for underclassmen to carry on the tradition.
As attendees chatted over post-discussion root beer floats, Gibbs and Gigante seemed pleased by the turnout for the event. Gigante said that aside from the overall success of the screening, the movie was one he personally enjoyed.
“I admit it,” he said.“I teared up a little bit.”