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Where Soldiers Come From doesn’t care as much about the geographic, social, or economic backgrounds of enlisted men as it does about a war’s capacity to profoundly change them. Where soldiers come from isn’t where they end up. Dominic Fredianelli, a budding artist, chooses to enlist in the National Guard to pay for college, and convinces his childhood buddies Cole Smith and Matt “Bodi” Beaudoin to do the same on the promise of solid pay and a commitment of just one weekend a year of training. That’s until they are sent to Afghanistan. Director Heather Courtney follows the boys as they say tearful goodbyes to friends, girlfriends, and doting parents in their small Michigan hometown, and then throughout their service in Afghanistan. We experience their interactions with Afghans, the tedium of searching for roadside bombs, and the fear and shock when one blows up. While Courtney’s wartime access is rare, the most compelling part of the film come when the boys return home, rebuild their lives, patch together relationships, and recover the dreams they had before they enlisted. For Fredianelli, that’s creating a massive mural telling the story of his experience. He and his friends suffer unseen injuries: anger, disillusionment, and even traumatic brain injury. It’s this moving portrayal of the impact of war on soldiers and families that made me want to spend more wintery days in Michigan with the boys-turned-veterans, and maybe a little less time sitting around in an Afghan bunker.
Thursday, June 23 at 12:15 p.m. at AFI Silver 3; also on Saturday, June 25 at 2:45 p.m. at AFI Silver 1.