Netflix’s “I Am Vanessa Guillen,” is the haunting tale of the pain of loving and blatant cruelty. Military incompetencies, discrimination, and sexual assault/harassment allegations abound in this intense, yet moving documentary.
The movie pulls you in from the start with a bold and brave introductory sequence. We learn a bit about Vanessa and her personality. We learn about her affinities, her family, and the passion within her culture.
As the doc continues, we learn about Guillen’s tragic disappearance and death — as well as the Army’s lack of cooperation.
The 20-year-old disappeared from Fort Hood, a military camp in Texas, on April 22, 2020. After she was reported missing, her mother revealed that Guillen told her that she was being sexually harassed. Still, the Army was unsympathetic.
Guillen’s sisters — Marya and Lupe — took her loss hard, but they knew they had to be her advocate and those like her. The sisters worked tirelessly to spread the word. Eventually, the Army could not turn a blind eye anymore. On June 30th, 2020, Guillen’s remains were found in three places along the Leon River.
No punishments, for sexual harassment, assault or murder, were handed out.
This doc is heart-wrenching and nothing short of that. You will laugh, you will cry and you will be on the edge of your seat as you cheer on the Guillen family.
“I am Vanessa Guillen,” is about activism and pushing an entire world to do better. With artful transitions from past to present to wishes for the future, the entire movie feels seamless.
Additionally, the documentary perfectly balances the ideas of hope and hopelessness.
Going through such a horrific loss of a daughter, girlfriend, friend and sister is traumatizing. And we see that, yes, but we also see exactly what these friends, mothers, boyfriends and sisters do with this heartbreak and the ways in which they use it to better their world.
They do not ask for change in the Army. Rather, they demand it. There is yelling and crying and hugging in such a way that it is impossible to feel nothing for the Guillens and the awful situation they’ve been put in.
Beautifully made and executed, it is a story that needed to be told and was in an alluring and engaging fashion.
I give it 9 out of 10 stars and encourage all to give it a chance.