Image Image Image Image Image

User access:

Scroll to Top

To Top


On 13, Feb 2007 | No Comments | In | By admin

Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience

Buy DVD iTunes Download Netflix

Operation Homecoming, an Academy Award nominated documentary, explores the firsthand accounts of American troops through their written words, and offers a profound window into the human side of the war that was being fought in Iraq.

The film evolved out of a National Endowment for the Arts project that gathered the writing of soldiers and their families who have participated in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Interviews and dramatic readings by such actors as Robert Duvall, Josh Lucas, Beau Bridges, Blair Underwood, Justin Kirk, Aaron Eckhart, Chris Gorham and John Krasinski, transform selections from this collection of writing into a deep examination of the experiences of the men and women who are serving in America’s armed forces. At the same time the film provides depth and context to these experiences through a broader look at the universal themes of war literature.

The writing in Operation Homecoming covers the full spectrum – poetry, fiction, memoir, letters, journals, and essays. The stories recounted here are sad, funny, violent, and uplifting. Yet each one displays an honesty and intensity that is rarely seen in explorations of war. Operation homecoming aired on PBS, and a feature length version was released theatrically.
The television version of Operation Homecoming was first broadcast nationally as part of PBS’s America at a Crossroads series on April 16, 2007. A theatrical version has been screened at festivals and in theaters across the country. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary in 2007.

  • The NEA’s Operation Homecoming initiative has collected more than sixteen hundred pieces of writing from service members and their families. The film takes a handful of this writing and brings the soldiers’ words to the screen using a variety of innovative filmmaking techniques that push the boundaries of traditional documentary. Some stories are told through archival news images of the war. Several use striking visual collages to accompany the words of a poem. A few move even farther a field using illustration or animated still photographs. In all cases the storytelling remains rooted in a reading of the writer’s original words.

    Beyond these written words, the film finds a deeper understanding the experiences through interviews with the writers, now returned from the war zone but struggling to find meaning in the incredible extremes they lived through, as well as veterans of other conflicts who have become valuable contributors to the literature of war. Through conversations with established writers like Tim O’Brien, Tobias Wolff, or James Salter, the film reveals that these are universal experiences for men and women in combat.

    At the core of the writing in Operation Homecoming is an intense desire by all those who have served in war to come to terms with the experience. Throughout the film the soldiers, young and old, express a profound hope that people will listen to their stories and try to understand what the soldiers have witnessed. As with all of the great war writers, stretching back to The Iliad, the soldier-writers of Operation Homecoming are trying to find meaning in the chaos and brutality. The film is a deeply humanizing look at those who suffer the de-humanization of war.

    The film was made possible through the generous support of The Boeing Company, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Independent Television Service. The published anthology of writing from the NEA’s Operation Homecoming was edited by historian Andrew Carroll and published by Random House. The film was made possible through the generous support of The Boeing Company, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Independent Television Service.

  • Worcester Telegram & Gazette News, Jim Keogh
    Film focuses on soldiers’ experiences, Nov. 01, 2007
    Download PDF

    New York Times, Stephen Holden
    The Hemingway Effect, From Recent Battlefields, Feb. 09, 2007
    Download PDF

    Variety, Ronnie Scheib
    Writing the Wartime Experience, Feb. 08, 2007
    Download PDF, Andrew O’Hehir
    Beyond the Multiplex , Feb. 08, 2007
    Download PDF

    Slant Magazine, Nick Schager
    Operation Homecoming, Feb. 01, 2007
    Download PDF

    The Onion, A.V. Club
    Operation Homecoming, Feb. 08, 2007
    Download PDF

    Village Voice, Ed Gonzalez
    Tracking Shots: Operation Homecoming, Feb. 06, 2007
    Download PDF

    Time Out New York, Mark Holcomb
    FILM REVIEW: Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, Feb. 08, 2007
    Download PDF

    NY Metro, Dan Dunn
    Fighting Words, Feb. 09, 2007
    Download PDF

    Hollywood Reporter, Frank Scheck
    Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, Feb. 23, 2007
    Download PDF

    Orlando Sentinel, Roger Moore
    Operation Homecoming (5 Stars Out of 5), Mar. 30, 2007
    Download PDF

    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Meg Jones
    War Stories Told With Simple Power, Mar. 30, 2007
    Download PDF

    Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman
    Movie Review: Operation Homecoming, Apr. 4, 2007
    Download PDF

    Boston Herald, Chelsea Bain
    War Through Soldiers’ Lenses, Apr. 6, 2007
    Download PDF

  • National Endowment for the Arts Initiative

    Operation Homecoming, Edited by Andrew Carroll

    PBS America at a Crossroads

    Independent Television Service

    Corporation for Public Broadcasting


    Colby Buzzell’s Blog

    Here, Bullet a book by SGT Brian Turner

  • Director & Producer, Richard E. Robbins

    Executive Producer, Tom Yellin

    Editor, Gillian McCarthy

    Co-Producers, Adam Hyman, Kristin Lesko

    Production Coordinator, Megan Parlen

    Associate Producer, Talleah Bridges

    Director of Photography, Jason Ellson

    Composer, Ben Decter

    Visual Effects, Titles & Graphics, Dave Tecson, Edgeworx

    Voice performances by:,
    Beau Bridges
    Robert Duvall
    Chris Gorham
    Aaron Eckhart
    Justin Kirk
    Justin Kirk
    Josh Lucas
    Brian Turner
    Blair Underwood

    “Distant Thunder” by Denis Prior
    “What Every Soldier Should Know” by Brian Turner
    “Men in Black” by Colby Buzzell
    “Road Work” by Jack Lewis
    “Camp Muckamungus” by Parker Gyokeres
    “Aftermath” by Sangjoon Han
    “Medevac Missions” by Ed Hrivnak
    “To the Fallen” by John McCary
    “Taking Chance” by Mike Strobl
    “Ashbah” by Brian Turner

    With appearances by:,
    Richard Currey
    Paul Fussell
    Joe Haldeman
    Yusef Komunyakaa
    Tim O’Brien
    James Salter
    Anthony Swofford
    Tobias Wolff