SF State cinema major and Marine Corps Sergeant films front lines in Afghanistan war

Removed from Reality film
Owen Morris, Afghanistan veteran posing with his video equipment Aug. 31. He is currently working on this film "Removed from Reality" which documents the life of a soldier through the eyes of a soldier. Photo by Gil Riego.

There are over 7,000 miles between San Francisco and Kabul. At times, it seems like the distance between civilians and soldiers is just as vast. No number of news reports, political speeches or second-hand stories can ever really capture the intensity of life on the ground.

The military knows a completely different conflict from those of us at home. U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Owen Morris has taken action to fill that void. He has made a film that allows ordinary people experience the terror, joy, awe and sorrow of a grunt’s-eye view of war.

In 2009, Morris, then 26 years old, was deployed on a seven-month tour to Southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. A cinema major at SF State, Morris decided to find space in his bag for a few cameras to film his tour from a first-person perspective. The result is the most intimate possible portrayal of war.

The film, which is still deep in the editing process, is called “Removed From Reality.” It follows Morris and his fellow members of LAR 1st Platoon Alpha Company on the long road from his civilian home in Daly City across a war zone, and back.

Morris saw his deployment as an opportunity to show the world what the conflict is really like for those involved, without journalists as middlemen.

“Mostly you see the conflict from the point of view of the media,” Morris said. “Nowadays you’re capable, with digital production, to be on the ground, to be one of the guys and share that story without that filter.”

Morris, now a year removed from service, believes the filter of the media has created a chasm between public understanding of the war in Afghanistan and its reality. His goal, however, is not to redefine the world’s perception of the conflict, but rather to show the raw, human side of the men and women fighting it.

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  • S

    SatanSep 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    I’ll definitely pay for a video where innocent people get killed for trying to protect their homes from occupying forces!

    • O

      Owen MorrisSep 15, 2011 at 6:45 pm

      You can make your judgment on who is innocent, and guilty. In the meantime, I’ll just do my best to do good. I’d certainly appreciate every opinion possible on the final film.

  • P

    PearlSep 15, 2011 at 3:33 pm


  • J

    Joe CoreSep 15, 2011 at 11:31 am

    I’ll wait and see how he’s biased it or not… On one hand, I kind of welcome this, on the other hand, if he doesn’t present it in context, he could end up exploiting hardships on US and Afghan just to make himself a little bit of 15 minute fame.

    • O

      Owen MorrisSep 15, 2011 at 6:42 pm

      Joe, I’m absolutely taking that into mind. It’s very hard to edit an entire film, starring me, and not feel a little ego-centric about it.

      I’m not trying to exploit anything, and I really believe what I’m trying to say will be clear to all bias parties… communication is the goal… not glorification.

  • D

    Diane RolloSep 12, 2011 at 5:35 pm


    What a captivating film this will be! Can’t wait to see it. Interesting to experience the day to day life of a Marine! Thank you for enlighting us!

  • M

    Marsha FlannerySep 12, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Can’t wait to see your film! SO glad to see you looking healthy and engaged in this project with such passion. Bet your Mom is oh so proud of you.
    Marsha Flannery

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SF State cinema major and Marine Corps Sergeant films front lines in Afghanistan war