What is on the minds of our soldiers as they return home? Perhaps the camp sites, the heavy artillery of war, or maybe the peace and excitement of returning home to their families. Are the soldiers satisfied with their duties? These are questions that many relatives do not ask themselves when soldiers return. These are questions addressed in “G.I Jes?s,” a film that takes a close look at soldiers’ suffering and fears.
The movie “G.I. Jes?s” is the story of Jes?s Feliciano, played by Joe Arquette, a young Mexican citizen who returned to California from Iraq. Upon his return, Jes?s is reunited with his wife, Claudia, who is played by Patricia Mota, and his daughter Marina, played by Telana Lynum. Soon after his return, Jes?s finds himself drifting away from his family, while at the same time struggling with his emotional scars from the war.
Jes?s, who enlisted in the Army to get U.S. citizenship, suffers from flashbacks, seen through green night-vision and accompanied by helicopter sounds, in which he kills Iraqi civilians.
During flashbacks, Jes?s also speaks with Mohammed, an imaginary Iraqi man played by Maurizio Farhad. Mohammed, who represents Jes?s’ conscience, questions him about the war mission by asking, “Who did you almost give your life for?” Facing possible redeployment within a month, Jes?s fears he will lose his family forever and is forced to make a definite decision.
Carl Colpaert, director and co-writer of “G.I. Jes?s,” has created an emotionally moving story about the risks and sacrifices many non-citizens take in order to attain the American dream. Furthermore, Colpaert introduces the viewer to the life of Jes?s, who still lives in a humble trailer park, despite the fact that he has served in the Marines.
“G.I. Jes?s” won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Cine Vegas film festival. The film captures how soldiers recruit children by telling them that they could be future heroes. The recruiters give out a DVD of war scenes and explosions that amaze the children and desensitize them to the realities of war. The film also questions the intensions of the military, when a high-ranking officer refers Jes?s to illicit operations to fund the war.
“G.I Jes?s” also brings the audience a taste of Latin culture by incorporating Spanish-language songs and dialogues in Spanish. Colpaert, the Belgian-born director, is also known for his movies “Swimming with the Sharks,” “The Whole Wide World” and “Mi Vida Loca.”
Arquette said he identified with Jes?s. Besides the fact that his father, too, is an immigrant from Mexico, Arquette almost enlisted in the Army. To prepare for the role, Arquette watched war documentaries and talked to soldiers.
“(Jes?s) tries to start a life after the war and it is hard for him due to the post-traumatic stress,” Arquette said. “This movie highlights some of the issues that the soldiers have after war, so we can understand what really happens.”
This movie shows how soldiers encounter another real battle after returning from Iraq, when they try to forget about tanks, guns, bullets and death. For those interested in what happens to soldiers when they come home, “G.I. Jes?s” is a must-see.