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.