Rating (out of 5): ***
The first half of Lioness, co-directors' Meg McLagan's and Daria Sommers' debut, focuses on the arcane circumstances that brought the first unit of female combat fighters (dubbed "Team Lioness") together. Since the Iraq invasion has never been officially declared a war, there are technically no combat missions being fought there. Ergo, female soldiers can be placed on the frontlines of any engagement despite it presently being illegal for them to serve in combat situations. The Marines' missions focus on following up on gathered intelligence routing out insurgents and terrorist cells, which are typically run out of private residences. Because male American soldiers frisking Muslim women in burkas could conceivably lead to a jihad that would consume the entire Arabian desert, female soldiers (none of whom speak Farsi) were dispatched to placate the locals.
But because the Lioness team members all came from the Army and were never trained in the Marines' weaponry, strategy or vernacular there were many occasions when the women were abandoned during shootouts or were nearly left behind in villages without an operational vehicle or map. Watching this documentary one understands why the the Bush administration's 'women in the military' meme was Jessica Lynch and not Team Lioness. Months after returning from their tours, the women still express deep resentment at the unnecessary dangers they faced due to what amounted to a poorly organized propaganda effort.
Read the rest of my review at Greencine.