Director Iskander Galiev’s Battle Brotherhood shows all soldiers are brothers united by combat.
It seems to be a rather novel situation in American history that the public needs the occasional reminder that the United States still maintains a large force in Afghanistan, where our military has fought since after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. This is the 14th year of U.S. occupation of the desolate Asian country, which has no realistic end in sight considering the near-impossible goal of making the country into a functioning state that does not serve as a breeding ground for terrorists. Twelve years before the U.S. first sent troops into Afghanistan, the Soviet Union ended their decade-long war in the region that began in 1989, giving the country only the briefest respite from war over nearly the past 40 years.
During the time when the Soviets fought in Afghanistan, the communist government was the great enemy of America, even if neither superpower ever engaged in direct battle with the other, but the documentary Battle Brotherhood shows all soldiers are brothers united by combat. It is thus remarkable that the documentary unites veterans from two different wars with Afghanistan, separated by a generation and by national origin but united by their experiences as veterans who lost limbs during combat.
The documentary brings together veterans and soldiers in a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the shared victory of the United States and the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany, yet was filmed at a time when the relationship between America and Russia, thanks to the actions of Vladimir Putin, are arguably at their worst since before Mikhail Gorbachev instituted his policy of glasnost toward the United States.
Director Iskander Galiev portrays the disabled veterans of both sides as decent people who, despite a vocation that often requires killing enemy soldiers, bear no ill will towards those on the opposing side. It is a constant reminder that wars may be waged by the individual soldiers, and it is they who risk their lives and limbs in battle, but it is at the direction of the governments who declare hostilities. Battle Brotherhood shows veterans from a multitude of countries traveling through nations that were once and might still be considered enemy territory.
Although Galiev is a Russian filmmaker, American audiences might consider this less a meditation on veterans and more a reminder of the war with Afghanistan that seems to have no end, considering the formal end of combat operations still requires a large military presence and frequent airstrikes. For the soldiers placed in dangerous, hostile territory like those portrayed in Battle Brotherhood, it hardly matters how the government categorizes the military operation.
Despite the hopelessness that seems to permeate Battle Brotherhood, it never spills over to the portrayal of the soldiers themselves, who despite losing limbs still find ways to build lives despite nearly losing everything during their combat in Afghanistan. David Lyon, an American soldier who lost both of his legs in 2010, has the most prominent role out of all of the subjects, and is a perfect example of this. The documentary portrays him as a man of relentless drive and will to live after surviving a bomb explosion.
Battle Brotherhood premieres Nov. 1 at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood and features a tribute to Marine Sergeant First Class David Lyon. Even though the Afghanistan veteran learned to walk using prosthetic limbs after losing his legs in Afghanistan, he succumbed to heart complications related to his injuries in 2014.
Tickets for the 5 p.m. premiere screening of Battle Brotherhood at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Sunday, Nov. 1 are free with RSVP to s[email protected].