ENTERTAINMENT
11/11/2013 11:43 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

PUMA IMPACT AWARD: 'The Invisible War' Is Fifth Film On Shortlist For Prestigious Documentary Prize

The PUMA Impact Award seeks to recognise and honour the documentary that has made the most significant social impact over the last year, and HuffPostUK is profiling in turn the five films to have made the shortlist.

Susan Sarandon, Gael Garcia Bernal and Ricken Patel, founder of online activist community Avaaz, are all on the jury deciding which of these five films has made the most significant positive impact on society or the environment.

the invisible war

'The Invisible War' is the fifth of the five films on this year's PUMA Impact Award shortlist

The five impressive films cover topics ranging from a miscarriage of justice in the Philippines, to violence intervention and prevention on the streets of Chicago, through to bullying in US schools, an exploration of Indonesia's death squads and sexual assault in the US military. All of the projects have prompted remarkable and measurable change.

Today...

'The Invisible War'

Released last year, this documentary directed by Kirby Dick explores the taboo of sexual assault within the US Army, with numbers reaching an astonishing 3,000+ new reports in 2010, and the actual figure estimated to be six times as high.

"We were literally floored by what we were hearing," says producer Amy Ziering. "The problem was so widespread and the cruelty and injustice so perverse and needless, we felt we had to do something."

the invisible war

The problem of sexual assault in the US military was on a scale that left the filmmakers "floored"

The filmmakers' biggest challenge was to "process the trauma" evidenced by their interviews with military personnel, as well as politicians, but they were gratified by the response to the release of their film.

As well as being nominated for Best Documentary at this year's Oscars, 'The Invisible War' was credited for helping raise a long-held cover of silence within the US military, whereby it was victims, and not perpetrators, who were often punished and forced out of service.

"The Pentagon embraced the film and received it as a critique and not an attack," says Ziering. "That's not typical for independent films that look critically at our US military. Senator Gillibrand drafted a piece of legislation in its wake that directly lifts its policy ask from our film. To date, 46 Senators are now backing transformative piece of legislation that would never have been penned were it not for our film."

the invisible war

"The Pentagon embraced the film as a critique, not an attack"

Ziering describes heartwarming screenings, with "survivors stepping up to thank us for giving them a voice and audience members stepping up to say 'how can we help' -- it's been just amazing and inspiring," but the fight goes on.

"We need get Senator Gillibrand's MJIA bill passed," she says. "We'd love readers to go our website notinvisible.org and see what they can do offer support. The vote is coming up in the next two weeks."

From the shortlist of five, the winning film will be announced at the PUMA Impact Award Celebration in New York on 13 November 2013. 50,000 Euros will be awarded to the creative and campaigning minds behind the winning entry to acknowledge the filmmakers, and to help support the continued efforts of the film's campaign for change.

HuffPostUK are delighted to be PUMA/BritDoc's editorial partner for the third year for this important documentary event. For more information about the PUMA Impact Award, click here.