Individuals enlist in the U.S. military for different reasons, but they all return from war, changed
More About Night Visions from Director Kathy Huang
Since September 11, 2001, over a million Americans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the overseas experiences of these men and women have been well documented, their experiences returning home have received less attention. I became interested in telling the story of an average soldier, one who enlisted in the Army for idealistic reasons, served diligently, and returned home quietly, without any particular accolades or physical wounds. This was the soldier overlooked by the nightly news, the soldier who was expected to reintegrate smoothly into civilian life.
In March 2005, I contacted the Blue Star Moms of California, a support group for mothers of soldiers serving in Iraq. The very next day, I heard back from Francie Roberts. In a short email, she wrote that her son Blake had been in Baghdad and had returned home a changed person. She believed it was important for others to hear about the emotional impact of war on soldiers. Francie would prove to be a pillar of support throughout the project.
With Francie's encouragement, Blake telephoned me shortly afterwards. From the beginning, he was open about his time in Iraq and receptive to the idea of being in a film. I visited him at his home in Danville, California, and recorded a series of audio interviews with him. Then, in late April 2005, with the assistance of three of my classmates at Stanford University, I filmed Blake around his house and neighborhood. Blake also visited Stanford University for a day, giving an interview at an old sound stage on campus. The film's production lasted for only 2 days, but its editing took an intense month. In early June, Night Visions made its debut at Stanford University. Blake and his parents were in the audience. It was extremely moving to watch the family experience the film together.
I was lucky enough to find Blake Roberts. Honest and direct, he shared with me tales of daily life in the barracks as well as intimate, tragic moments. Though Blake does not question the motives of the U.S. government in Iraq or the missions he completed, he nevertheless has been shaken by his experiences in the Middle East. His story speaks for so many other U.S. soldiers who enter the military service with good intentions, but find themselves overwhelmed by the tasks they must carry out and the traumas they witness. His story is a cautionary reminder that military action should not be taken carelessly; its results run deep and last interminably.