Included within Double-Feature Block
Directed by Julie Cohen
United States | 75 min | 2017
America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created a new population of American veterans: service members so severely disabled they would have died in previous wars, but because of advanced medical technology they survive.
We’ve figured out how to keep them alive and bring them back home, but what then? AMERICAN VETERAN is a feature length documentary portrait of one such soldier, Army Sergeant Nick Mendes. Nick was paralyzed from the neck down by a massive improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011, when he was 21 years old.
Despite severe physical injuries and PTSD, Nick’s mind is clear and his spirit and sense of humor are very much intact.
AMERICAN VETERAN follows Nick through the five year period after his injury — from the V.A. hospital bed where he spent 7 months recovering and learning to eat and even breathe on his own again, to the fully accessible home where he now lives with his new wife, a medical caregiver he met in the hospital.
Presented in an unflinching, close-up style, the film brings us into Nick’s world as he studies for a real estate license, falls in love, and learns to do everything from posting on Facebook and playing video games to casting a fishing reel with his mouth.
We’re with Nick as he endures an awkward Veterans Day parade and as he reunites with the soldier who pulled him from the truck just after it blew up. The film weaves together Nick’s past and present to show a nuanced portrait of a quadriplegic soldier’s sometimes harrowing, sometimes romantic and often surprisingly funny life.