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Phil Donahue bringing “Body of War” to campus

Cassie Belek | Friday, December 7, 2007

Imagine going to Iraq to serve your country, only to be shot in the spine and paralyzed less than a week into duty without having fired a single bullet. Now imagine having your story told in an award-winning documentary co-directed by Phil Donahue.”Body of War” follows the story of Tomas Young, a 25-year-old Kansas City native, as he returns home, injured, to start a new life with a disability. Throughout his journey, Young becomes a powerful voice of activism against the war in Iraq. The documentary simultaneously follows Young’s story and goes back to the debate in Congress leading up to the invasion of Iraq.Donahue and Young met while Young was recovering in a hospital in Washington, D.C. Young had asked to meet Ralph Nader, who showed up with long-time friend Donahue. The seeds of the documentary were planted in that first meeting, and the end result was “Body of War.”Donahue will be on campus tonight to introduce both the 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. screenings of the documentary at the Browning Cinema. The 7 p.m. screening also features a question-and-answer session with the former talk show host. Tickets for both screenings are sold out, but Donahue will be present at a public reception outside the cinema that starts around 9 p.m.”Body of War” has already garnered critical attention. It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September, winning runner-up for the People’s Choice Award. It also received the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Hamptons International Film Festival in October, and it is currently in consideration for Academy Award nominations.Donahue, a 1957 Notre Dame graduate, co-directed the documentary with the award-winning Ellen Spiro. Spiro teaches film at the University of Texas and has directed several documentaries, including “Are the Kids Alright?” and “Roam Sweet Home.” Donahue asked Spiro to join the project because she’s a one-woman crew, allowing for a more personal and intimate result. Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam also contributed two original songs to the film, inspired by Young – “Long Nights” and “No More.”Donahue is widely considered to be the father of the modern television talk show, paving the way for talk show hosts like Oprah Winfrey. His talk show, “Donahue,” ended in 1996 after a 26-year run in national syndication. Donahue wasn’t afraid to tackle controversial issues such as abortion, gay rights and AIDS. He also introduced a great deal of the nation to hip-hop and breakdancing in a 1984 episode. The television legend has interviewed leaders from all over the world, including U.S. presidents, Nelson Mandela and Henry Kissinger.Browning Cinema Director Jon Vickers said Donahue’s documentary “makes no bones about its anti-war message,” but even if they don’t agree with its politics, students should still come to learn more about a man who has had such an influence on the television landscape.”I think just coming out for that reason should be a little bit enlightening,” Vickers said.With tickets for tonight already sold out, it is clear that there is not only an interest in Donahue the talk show host, but in Donahue the director as well. Young’s story is both heartbreaking and controversial, but it sends a strong message about the ongoing effects of the war in Iraq and gives a face to a debate that has no clear end in sight.