Inside the Lives of Military Families

Edet Belzberg is a documentary filmmaker whose coverage of the life of Romanian street children in the film "Childeren Underground" won her both acclaim and criticism for its depiction of the child abuse. Her latest film, "The Recruiter" premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. It portrays a top U.S. army recruiter and his relationship with four of his recruits as they complete high school and go through basic training.

Belzberg received a B.A. in 1991 from the University of Colorado, Boulder and an M.A. in 1997 from the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University. She received the Columbia University School of Journalism's John M. Patterson Enterprise Award in 1997 for her documentary short "A Master Violinist," about a Chinese political refugee. Belzberg made Children Underground with assistance from the Soros Documentary Fund (now the Sundance Documentary Fund). The film won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival (2001), and received the Best Documentary Film Award from the International Documentary Association (2001), as well as nomination for an Oscar. Her 2005 documentary, Gymnast, studied three American female gymnasts preparing for the Olympic Games. In 2005, she received the MacArthur "Genius" award, about which she says, "This is life-altering and seemingly unfathomable. It provides a documentary filmmaker with an incredible amount of freedom."

She lives in New York City, where she has been a frequent guest lecturer on urban reporting and documentary filmmaking at the Columbia School of Journalism, and has also taught at NYU.
  • Transcript


Question: Do most Americans appreciate the hardships faced by military families?


Edet Belzburg:  I think until you, yourself, are experiencing, it’s very difficult. You know, it’s very difficult, and it’s one of the reasons, again, why I made that film. But we should all have that connection to the soldiers who are serving that every family member has. If we did, maybe certain things would be very different. But I think it’s very difficult to-- when I was in Houma, it, you know, every time I would go to Houma, it was as if I was, you know, in a country at war. You know, everyone was speaking about the war. Everybody had a family member or they knew someone who was serving or had been killed. And the impact was significant there. When I’d come back home, you know, it was completely different environment. So I think it’s very difficult to know what a family feels until you’re actually-- people can empathize and understand conceptually. But emotionally I think it’s very difficult to feel that pain unless you actually know someone intimately.


Recorded on: 07/16/2008