Blindfolded American veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq shuffle around messy apartments featuring unused dining tables and big-screen TVs. They wear GoPro cameras on their foreheads, filming everything they’d be seeing if they weren’t blindfolded. This provides indirect sight, as if they’re perceiving their environment for the first time. As they explore, they describe their homes in mundane detail, until their dry reporting shifts into descriptions of the battlefield: gun battles, dead comrades, failed operations with fatal outcomes or no effect at all.
Meiro Koizumi, who previously made films about a World War II kamikaze pilot and a Japanese bomb victim, now turns his attention to U.S. war experiences. But more than just the trauma of war and violence, Battlelands is about the division between the public story and personal experience. The stories about military operations, which are familiar to us all but which few of us have experienced, merge with the dining tables and the TVs. The everyday environment becomes the battlefield of memories.