On October 15, 2004, Bellingham local Jonathan Santos, a 22-year-old United States Army corporal, was killed in Iraq. Santos was a Sehome High School graduate in the class of 2001, and had been in Iraq for just five weeks when a suicide bomber killed him.
Most people, even those in the Bellingham community, wouldn’t know much, if anything, about Santos. One documentary aims to change that.
Though it is only about eight minutes long, “The Corporal’s Boots,” the documentary on Santos’ death, packs quite a punch. “The film is pretty intense, and I think a lot of emotions will come up during it,” said Shabnam Mojtahedi, assistant coordinator of the Associated Students Social Issues Resource Center.
The film is being shown on campus by the SIRC as part of a series of programs on Iraq and the war called “Beyond Shock & Awe.”
SIRC assistant coordinator David Cahn explains that the film was originally based on a traveling art exhibit. “There was an exhibit that went around the country that had the boots of soldiers who died in Iraq,” Cahn said.
This exhibit, entitled “Eyes Wide Open,” presented one pair of boots for each soldier killed in Iraq. The boots were sectioned off by state and arranged in rows to simulate a scene in which the soldiers would be standing at parade rest.
The documentary focuses on this exhibit’s arrival in Washington, as well as Santos’ mother, Doris Kent, and her experience seeing her son’s boots.
Kent has been instrumental in the documentary’s production and presentation. “Doris called right when I was making a flier of all the SIRC events surrounding Iraq,” said Mojtahedi, explaining how the SIRC decided to host the film as part of its programming. “Doris will speak after the film about the process of making the film and showing it.”
“The Corporal’s Boots” was presented February. 12 at the Pickford Dreamspace; a ideaologically diverse crowd gathered for what was at some points a standing room only showing of the documentary. As she did for the Dreamspace showing, Kent will be on campus for a post-film discussion.
Mojtahedi believes that the showing of “The Corporal’s Boots” fits in with the goals of the SIRC. “The mission of the SIRC is to educate students on campus about issues that aren’t talked about by the mainstream media,” she said. “The lives of soldiers who died in Iraq aren’t talk about because the media doesn’t want us to see the human face of the war.”
This documentary is important, said Mojtahedi “so that we can see the human side of the casualties of war, to make the war that feels really distant feel more local.”
The filmmaker, Patricia Boiko, is interested in pursuing Santos’ story on a larger scale, according to Mojtahedi. She said that at the showing of the documentary, there will be a way for viewers to make donations towards making an extended documentary.
“The woman who directed ‘The Corporal’s Boots’ wants to make a longer, more expanded version. Doris is trying to help her do that by raising funds for production,” Mojtahedi said.
This extended documentary would most likely include not only Kent’s experience after her son’s death, but Santos’ journals and videos as well. “Jonathan had a video camera and kept an extensive diary, so the filmmaker has a lot of words and images of his that she wants to use,” said Mojtahedi.
Mojtahedi also wants to encourage students and community members to attend other SIRC events surrounding Iraq.
Thursday, February 23, Wafaa Bilal, an Iraqi-born artist will present a slide show of his work and share his experiences of being forced to flee his country in 1991. Bilal will speak in Fraser Hall 4 at 7 p.m.
“The Corporal’s Boots” will be shown on Tuesday, February 21 at 7 p.m. in the Communications Facility room 125. The event is free and open to the public. For more information on the documentary, or other SIRC upcoming events, call 650-6804 or email the SIRC at AS.ROP.Social.Issues@wwu.edu.