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Soldiers of Conscience cover photo

Soldiers of Conscience 2007

Not Recommended

Distributed by Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; 800-543-FROG (3764)
Produced by Gary Weimberg and Catherine Ryan
Directed by Gary Weimberg and Catherine Ryan
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
Psychology, War, Military Studies, Conscientious Objectors, Ethics

Date Entered: 12/17/2009

Reviewed by Michael Fein, Coordinator of Library Services, Central Virginia Community College, Lynchburg, VA

This award-winning documentary, which was featured on PBS’ POV, concerns eight members of the military—four who applied for conscientious objector status and four who contend that killing is a necessary evil in war. It is very apparent where the producers’ sympathies lie. The late S.L.A. Marshall’s controversial study that only twenty-five percent of U.S. combat troops fired their weapons in combat provides the springboard for the producer’s argument that people need to be conditioned to kill. (As an aside, there is a great body of literature that deals with and disputes Marshall’s methods and findings. Anecdotally, one of my uncles saw combat in Europe with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment and, from my recollections of his war stories, he and his buddies did fire in combat, A LOT.) The eight speak of their lives—where they came from and how they have arrived at their opinions regarding the morality of killing. By one of the producer’s own admission the film attempts to display the “common ground’ of pacifist and non-pacifist and “[w]here we can find common ground, we can eliminate problems. Perhaps even war." Perhaps the producers should spend some time in the combat zone of divorce court, especially in matters of child custody and visitation. There are many things in life that are mutually exclusive and the divide between pacifist and non-pacifist is ultimately immense and unbridgeable. Technically this film is flawless. Perhaps this film could be used as an introduction to the topic of pacifism, but at 54 minutes (6 minutes, 45 seconds per person profiled) it can only, at best, scratch the surface. Awards

  • Best Documentary , Salem Film Festival, 2008
  • Best Documentary, Bend Film Festival, 2008
  • Best Documentary, Rhode Island International Film Festival, 2007Best Film - Conflict and Resolution Category, Hamptons International Film Festival, 2007
  • Best Documentary, Foyle Film Festival, Northern Ireland, 2007
  • Finalist, Best Documentary, Denver Film Festival, 2007
  • Nominated for a News and Documentary Emmy Award 2009