When I was a young boy I saw the movie The Deer Hunter on television for the first time. Although I didn’t have the emotional maturity or the historical knowledge to put it all in perspective, I was deeply moved by the film and the actors (Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken). It spawned an enduring interest in the Vietnam War for me and also gave me a stellar template to judge films and acting against ever since.
The very idea of a group of friends from a small Pennsylvania coal town joining the Army together, fighting in the jungles of Vietnam, and then returning home to their friends and family as vastly different human beings is riveting drama. Yet It turns out that the story in The Deer Hunter is not too far from what is happening right now in Michigan.
A new documentary titled Where Soldiers Come From is now in limited release across the country and it tells the story of 9 boys (men) from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan—a rural area along the Canadian border— who joined the Army National Guard as a group and ultimately served in Afghanistan together. What intrigues me about the film is that the director was able to spend four years following the men, including being with them before they joined the Army so we can see into what one critic called “the enclosed world of youth.”
Here is the trailer: