Synopsis: Cristian arrives for his first day of work as an amputee actor at Fort Irwin, a military base in the California desert. For his new job, Cristian will act as if his legs have been destroyed by a bomb while wearing gory prosthetics as a part of soldiers’ training exercises. An injured veteran himself, he enters the artificial military simulation to confront his real combat trauma. Haunted by the past, he fights to transform his fear into a source of strength.
Three years ago, I met an American professor who told me he made money in the mid-2000s by pretending to be an Iraqi villager for US military training. I was surprised by his bizarre story and discovered the ongoing military simulations conducted at Fort Irwin, one of the US’s largest training centers. Once a month, these simulations are opened to the public. A group of excited spectators and I traveled to a sprawling fake village in the California desert, populated with Middle Eastern role players, some displaced from Afghanistan or Iraq, others, American impersonators. I witnessed a tremendously realistic training exercise, filled with guns, explosions, humvees, helicopters, blood, guts and lost limbs. … After being mesmerized by the surreal spectacle, I was surprised to learn that veteran amputees occasionally participated in these simulations as a form of therapy, directly reliving the violent loss of their limbs.