The Corporal’s Diary

The name of Jonathan Santos has been mostly forgotten to Northwest readers, though he briefly made news in the fall of 2004. As Rick Anderson wrote in this paper of the 22-year-old from Bellingham, he was the 1,096th casualty of the Iraq War, killed by a suicide bomber along with two others in his vehicle. Now, something like the soldier-shot videos of The War Tapes, Santos is back with us as subject, cameraman, and co-director of sorts. (Keep it PG-13, he tells his fellow soldiers while they’re horsing around in the barracks; “That’ll be in the director’s cut,” he says.) Local directors Patricia Boiko and Laurel Spellman-Smith have culled his video and handwritten account of his 38 days in Iraq, added some new footage and interviews, but the soldier is allowed to speak for himself. There’s no need to editorialize for or against the war; Santos was born into a military family, and he enlisted straight out of high school. He’s proud to serve, sure of his mission (having just been a peacekeeper in Haiti that spring, we learn), yet looking forward to life beyond the Army. A reader as well as filmmaker, he confides, “I just want to see Phantom of the Opera before I die,” and keeps a lucky Shrek head as a talisman against danger. Though the directors interpolate interviews and a postscript with Santos’ mother, Doris Kent, there’s a dreadful, inexorable countdown with each advancing day in his candid journal entries. We know from the start that the page will turn blank on October 14. Santos left behind two younger brothers, mere kids in his pre-deployment videos. Four years later, the middle brother reads Jonathan’s diary in his place to provide the film’s poignant voiceover. He’s thoughtful, poised, confident—just like his brother. Old enough to shave, old enough to enlist. (NR) BRIAN MILLER

Tue., Sept. 23, 7 p.m., 2008

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