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Wars, laws, business decisions all have consequences. Three strong films show little people who reeled from those large facts, got up and fought.
One of these stories you may have read in yesterday’s New York Times: about Jeremy Feldbusch, a wounded veteran of the Iraq invasion. He came to Iraq from Blairsville, Pa. coal mining country. A wrestler from age 5 to 18, he got a B.S. in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Soon after arriving in Iraq he was injured. "We were told by his doctors that the piece of shrapnel had gone under his goggles," says Jeremy’s brother Shaun, "and basically played ping-pong in his head… and he had damage to both sides of his frontal lobe." One tangible memorial to his injuries is a sign near his home: Blind Person Area. A more significant tribute is the work Feldbusch has done in raising awareness of the 19.000 U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq.
Home Front, by Richard Haskin, who worked on Capturing the Friedmans, was made in close collaboration with Jeremy’s family. One point viewers of docs often make about verite movies on ordinary folks is "I’d never let a film crew into the rhythms and crannies of my life." The Feldbusches obviously put up with Haskin’s intrusion to get out the message that we all must care for our wounded. Our representatives sent them there; we need to nourish them when they return, in whatever shape. Jeremy’s folks seem an extraordinary loving family, every bit as ordinary and heroic as he, His mother, especially, is a warm mountain of caring. "It’s never going to be what it was," she says. "But we
Among America’s unlucky families were those whose kin ran afoul of New York State’s Rockefeller Drug Laws, established in 1973, mandating that a person found possessing or selling a certain amount of marijuana, cocaine or heroin would receive a sentence of at least 15 years, not subject to a judge’s emendation. Forty-eight states now have these laws, whose enforcement stocks the nation’s prisons with hundreds of thousands of nonviolent offenders.
Lockdown USA, by Michael Skolnik and Rebecca Chaiklin, follows the crusade of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and others to get Governor George Pataki and the state legislatures to change those laws. It’s a closeup lesson in political compromise or, as many supporters of change see it, the humiliating status quo. "The Right, they’re calling it a jail break," says Simmons, while the Left, "they want total repeal." An hour into the film, Pataki and Simmons do cut a deal, but one that reduces the penalty from 15 to 9 years and still doesn’t allow judges to ameliorate the sentence. On stage, comedian-turned-activist Randy Predico notes sarcastically, "We got a major victory, all right. People who were facing 15 years to life are now all the way down to 14-1/2 years to life." (Some comedians get to fudge the facts.) "So it was a major victory. And Russell Simmons can get all the credit for this."