How to Fold a Flag

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Closing night! A cage fighter in Texas. A congressional candidate in Buffalo. A heavy-metal rocker in Colorado. A hog butcher in North Carolina. Their common thread is that they went through combat together in Iraq in the U.S. Army’s 2/3 Field Artillery unit, known as the Gunners. Now they’re dispersed back to their hometowns, trying to resume normal lives. In this extraordinary documentary, filmmakers Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein reveal the poignant and poetic tapestry of America’s neglected corners.

Tucker and Epperlein are uniquely qualified for this journey. Their debut feature film, Gunner Palace, which played at the Festival in 2004, was the first theatrical work to follow American soldiers in Iraq. That was followed by The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair in 2006, which looked at Abu Ghraib from the rare perspective of a wrongfully accused Iraqi prisoner, and Bulletproof Salesman in 2008, which examined a war profiteer.

HOW TO FOLD A FLAG begins with a 1920 epigraph from the German author Ernst Jünger: “We were asked to believe that the war was over. We laughed – for we were the war.” That sentiment embodies these characters. In Texas, Michael Goss, haunted by the deaths he witnessed, says, “I need to continue fighting something.” In Buffalo, Jon Powers campaigns on his war record for the U.S. Congress, which doesn’t stop his opponents from “Swift Boating” him with smear tactics. In suburban Colorado, Wilf Stuart tries to uphold his mother Becky’s spirits as his brother prepares to deploy for combat. In Fayetteville, North Carolina, Javorn Drummond cracks jokes about his ramshackle home. Describing his sense of dislocation, he says, “We went to war as a unit and came home alone.”

HOW TO FOLD A FLAG checks in on these characters and others throughout the pivotal election year of 2008, capturing unforgettable moments of hope, loss and redemption. They may be young, but they have a lot to teach us.

  • Country USA
  • Rating NR
  • Year 2009
  • Running Time 85 minutes
  • Director Michael Tucker & Petra Epperlein

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