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High Ground Film Review

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Wounded Vets Scale Himalayan Mountain in PTSD Documentary

Of the over two million soldiers who fought in Irag and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands subsequently developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Upon returning to the States, the injured have frequently failed to find an adequate support system, in part due to a Veterans' Administration ill-equipped to address mental health issues.

Unfortunately, even well-meaning family members and old friends seem to keep their distance, often having little more to offer than empty accolades like "Thank you for your service," delivered in a phony tone of voice which simultaneously suggests, "Stay away!" Is it any surprise, then, that so many who have been honorably discharged are having trouble making the adjustment back to civilian life, with some taking their own lives?

Their abandonment, plight and a unique form of therapy is the subject of High Ground, a very moving documentary devoted to chronicling the exploits of a mountain climbing team comprised of wounded warriors plagued by PTSD. Half of them suffered obvious physical wounds from battles or IEDS, while the others were left less-obviously traumatized by fallout from events like a shock wave concussion or being raped by a comrade.

Directed by Michael Brown, the movie divides its time between emotional interviews with its 11 subjects and recounting their perilous trek to the 20,000 foot-high peak of the Himalayas' Mount Lobuche. While the picture certainly serves up its share of visually-captivating panoramas, the real reason to watch is to witness the heartfelt reflections of the soldiers.

For example, Katherine "Rizzo" Ragazzino talks about becoming homeless because her pension didn't kick-in, and Ashley Crandall reveals that she's been suicidal for six years since being sexually assaulted while on a tour of duty overseas. A lot of these vets appear to have memory issues, yet seem to have resigned themselves to the fact that they're never going to be normal again. Perhaps this explains why they prefer the company of others who have also survived combat.

An empathetic portrait which manages to humanize so-called Generation Kill, a group of vets easily dismissed by most of polite society as undeserving of concern since they chose to enlist in an all-volunteer military. After all, they needed a draft to fight the Vietnam War.

Excellent (4 stars)


Running time: 92 minutes

Distributor: Red Flag Releasing

To see a trailer for High Ground:

Kam Williams is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online, the African-American Film Critics Association, and the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee. Contact him through NewsBlaze. Read more reviews by Kam Williams.

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