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'Citizen Soldier' shows Afghanistan's front lines through the eyes of Oklahoma Guard unit

September 1, 2016 (Photo Credit: Screenshot via YouTube)
An Oklahoma Army National Guard unit takes center stage in "Citizen Soldier," a documentary that tracks members of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team during and after their 2011 deployment to Afghanistan.

Mixing combat footage, including from soldiers' helmet cameras, with after-action interviews, directors David Salzberg and Christian Tureaud pieced together a follow-up to " The Hornet's Nest," their 2014 documentary that followed two journalists embedded with another unit in Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. Eran Harrill, a member of the 45th IBCT, saw that movie and reached out to Salzberg and Tureaud to share his footage, according to Variety.


The film premiered in limited theatrical release Aug. 5 and is now available for download and on DVD. Early reviews have been mostly positive: The New York Times says "[t]he sense of danger is palpable, as is the sense of misery after the most dreadful scenes," while The Hollywood Reporter credits its "ability to put us in the shoes of ordinary men balancing boredom with life-or-death action on a daily basis."

As THR's review points out, the film treads ground already covered by other documentaries and television series. That doesn't weaken the raw footage praised by critics, including soldiers listening to intercepted Taliban radio chatter as they prepare for a likely attack, and the up-close reactions of men sent on a sobering recovery mission.

The unit lost 14 soldiers during its 96-day deployment, according to a news release from the film's producers.

The movie will garner some publicity outside the military and documentary-press realms next month, when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series runs its Citizen Soldier 400 race in Dover, Delaware. 

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