“We were prepared to go into the war, but we were not prepared to come out,” says 23-year-old Rob, who recently returned from Iraq, in The Not Dead. Incorporating the stories of three different men from two generations, the film describes how war experiences can cause serious and permanent mental anguish. Besides Rob, Eddie, who served in Bosnia, and Cliff, who returned from Malaysia a broken man in 1951, provide insight into what post-traumatic stress disorder really means. In candid interviews, they are prepared to relive their toughest moments during and after the wars they served in.
Director Brian Hill films the men in an unembellished manner, intentionally placing them against a backdrop of archive footage and their current everyday reality, in which they still seem isolated. Poet Simon Armitage wrote a series of poems based on their deeply emotional accounts, and the men recite these as they look straight into the camera. In the process, the revisited nightmarish experiences intensify their history, rendering it universal.