Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Business of Winning an Oscar: 'The Invisible War'

By Liza Foreman

As conventional wisdom would have it, for a film to even get an Oscar nomination it would first have to make at least $5 million to $10 million at the box office and be released on three-hundred-plus screens. Remember all of those lavish campaigns by Oscar kingpin Harvey Weinstein?

Well, how things have changed. Consider “The Invisible War,” the first acquisition for the digital powerhouse Cinedigm, which was nominated earlier this week for an Academy Award in the best documentary category.

Cinedigm, which is run by former MGM topper Chris McGurk, released the film on around 30 screens, and it has so far made around $60,000, as per McGurk.  Many of these have been free screenings, staged everywhere from military bases to community centers to help raise awareness about the main subject of the film, rape in the military.

Directed by the Oscar and Emmy nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick (“This Film Is Not Yet Rated;” “Twist of Faith”), the documentary is an investigation into the epidemic.

Today, a female soldier in combat zones is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. The Department of Defense estimates there were 19,300 service members sexually assaulted in 2010 alone.

The film looks at the cover-up of military sex crimes, chronicling the women’s struggles to rebuild their lives and fight for justice. It also features interviews with military officials and members of Congress that reveal the conditions that exist for rape in the military, its long history, and what can be done to bring about much-needed change.

“There was an antiquated system in place in which the victim had to report the rape to their supervisor who in many cases was the perpetrator of the crime which didn’t help the problem,” said McGurk.

He added: “We wanted to get the message out and get behind the issue and need for change and show what the new company can do."

The film has also been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for best documentary. Additional 2012 nominations included best feature from the International Documentary Association (IDA), the Gotham Audience Award, and the Cinema Eye Honors audience choice prize.

“Not only did the filmmakers create a powerful, evocative and haunting film, their documentary is helping to bring systemic changes in the way our military treats both the victims and perpetrators of the terrible crime of sexual assault. However, despite the significant progress that has been made since the film’s release, the transformation in our military’s policy and culture regarding this issue is far from complete," said McGurk.

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