Off to War

New York Premiere

USA | 80 MINUTES | English |


Never before in U.S. history have so many National Guardsmen been called to fight. Off to War offers a compelling look at what it's like for these citizen-soldiers to abruptly leave jobs and families, pick up arms, and be thrust into battle. In 2004, the Arkansas National Guard called 57 citizens from Clarksville (pop. 7000) to active duty. Ranging in age from 19 to 58, the group included farmers, policemen, salesmen, and recent high school grads. Some, like minister Joe Bets, had been in the National Guard for 20 years without ever being activated. For many volunteers, one weekend of training a month and two weeks in the summer were all they'd expected. Suddenly, they're facing six months at Fort Hood, Texas, and 18 months in Iraq. Following them through training and deployment were filmmakers Brent and Craig Renaud. The brothers from Little Rock also filmed the recruits' loved ones back home, who were often confronted with radical change as a result of the lost income and ruptured family unit. The unpreparedness of these citizen-soldiers hits home time and again. Middle-aged men with paunches struggle with basic training. Immature teens treat it like a goof. Few seem to have fired lived ammunition before. Once in Iraq, their Vietnam-era, scandalously unarmored vehicles break down on dangerous highways. When the first casualties hit, it's clear they're not in Arkansas anymore. Produced for Discovery Times Channel, Off to War was recently commissioned to continue for seven more episodes, following the guardsmen through their service and assimilation back into society.


Directed by Reina Higashitani

Brent and Craig Renaud were born and raised in Little Rock, AR. Since 1995, the brothers have been working with celebrated documentary filmmaker Jon Alpert at the Downtown Community TV Center in New York on award-winning projects set in places like Afghanistan, Cambodia, Bolivia, China, Pakistan, and Iraq. Their work has aired on HBO, PBS, CBS, the Discovery Channel, the Discovery Times Channel, and ESPN. They have just completed Dope Sick Love, a film for HBO's America Undercover series that chronicles 18 months in the lives of two drug-addicted couples on the streets of New York.