Hot Docs 2012: ‘The Invisible War’ is eloquent, bold, and devastating

The Invisible War

Directed by Kirby Dick

2012, USA, 93 minutes

Kirby Dick’s latest investigative documentary begins with a simple title card stating that all statistics used in The Invisible War come from the US government. The move is bold, effective, and sets a sharp tone. So clear is the crime, so large is the epidemic of rape in the US military, that the US government can’t even contest the main weapon The Invisible War wields to condemn them.

To sit in the theatre and watch The Invisible War is to be inundated. Story after story of recruits raped is itself harrowing, but the sheer scale and brutality of rape in the military isn’t even the most outrageous aspect of the issue (and yes, having to write that sentence was bewildering). The most outrageous thing—and the focus of the film—is how the US military treats rape victims after their assault: their credibility is questioned, their health claims are denied, and their attackers go unpunished.

Despite the incendiary nature of the issue, Dick is careful to proceed slowly, establish facts, build his case, and let the officials the film implicates speak to their defence. The result is more smoulder than inferno, more Twist of Faith than Outrage. Dick is careful to ensure that the victims (the majority are female, but a few are men) tell their own story, and the film is richer for it.

The Invisible War is a difficult film to watch, but an important one. It is the sort of documentary made not only to portray the world, but to change the world. In this case, change can’t come soon enough.


–       Dave Robson


Hot Docs runs from April 26th through May 6th. Visit the official festival website here.

Visit the official website of The Invisible War here.

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