Q&A With PTSD Documentary Video Journalist
Recently Kara Frame joined Veterans and VAN at Higherground in Wisconsin for the screening of her documentary, I Will Go Back Tonight. The short documentary tells the story of four Veterans’ battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how life after Vietnam effects them and their spouses. VAN was also able to interview Ms. Frame about the documentary, Veterans care, and the role her parents played in the documentary.
VAN: Your father was one of the Vietnam Veterans interviewed. When did you decide to document his experience?
Kara: It started in grad school when I was in a new media photojournalism program. Our class was visited by a White House videographer who said “Do in grad school what you won’t be able to do later in life.” I was proud of my dad’s service, I knew he had PTSD and that he was different because of Vietnam. But I never knew why and I wanted to explore it. I also think it was a way for me to get to know my Dad.
VAN: Did any of the Veterans interviewed get help from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or another Veteran-group for their PTSD?
Kara: Everyone interviewed in I Will Go Back Tonight has gotten help from VA. Each of the Veterans interviewed received different levels of care depending on their disabilities and diagnosis.
VAN: What do you think is the root of PTSD? Is medication the answer? Is it hypnosis, religion?
Kara: PTSD is so new, I don’t think medication alone is the answer. One of the Veterans interviewed in the documentary, Don Elverd, is working his a PhD for a multicultural approach to trauma. I think that pills can help with the physical wounds, but in order for PTSD to be treated, spiritual wounds need to be addressed as well.
VAN: Why do you think VA has had so much trouble caring for Veterans?
Kara: I don’t think VA ever understood what they’re up against. There are people in VA who truly want to help Veterans and go above and beyond. But there are other people who are just there for a paycheck.
VAN: Have you interviewed or had interactions with Veterans from any other conflict? Did the experiences seem similar to your father or older Veterans?
Kara: Yes, an Afghanistan Veteran who shared the same unit as my Dad. I’m hoping to create another documentary with younger Veterans. His experiences were very similar to my Dad’s. I cried after interviewing him because I thought of my Dad and how long he suffered like this young Veteran. I knew this young man’s struggle with PTSD was just beginning and he had a long way to go. His nightmares will continue for the next couple decades.
VAN: What was the most challenging part of making the documentary?
Kara: Taking care of myself and not taking on any secondary trauma. When you talk to men and women over and over about very difficult and traumatic events, it’s hard to listen to the answers. In March 2015, I did a solid month of editing. After listening to hard stories over and over again, it was very to not be effected.
VAN: Did making the documentary educate or challenge your understanding of PTSD? Was there a stereotype about PTSD you had going in that was proven wrong?
Kara: PTSD isn’t something that goes away. Veterans, their spouses, and kids all live with it as well. The family members have to deal with a loved one’s PTSD literally every day. We always should salute the Veterans, but we should also hug the spouse.
VAN: Was there a part of making the documentary you wanted to add but it just didn’t work or fit?
Kara: Yes. One of the Veterans interviewed, Abe, was in a coma for 24 hours and had an experience. He called it leaving his body, but it was some kind of dream-like state. In this dream, he went back to Vietnam and saw all of the men from his unit that had died. When he woke up, the first thing he asked was where were the men from his unit? It was such a powerful story but it just didn’t fit anywhere.