The timing couldn’t be better: In a month dedicated to military and veteran caregivers, a documentary about an Army couple’s struggles after devastating combat injuries will premier at one of the world’s top film festivals.
The story of Kathleen, or Kat, and Aaron Causey, a retired sergeant first class who lost both legs while dismantling a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2011, “The Next Part” will debut Friday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.
Told from Kat Causey’s perspective, the short documentary details the couple’s efforts to survive the recovery process, negotiate their “new normal” and face complex fertility problems caused by the blast that took Aaron’s legs.
“We really thought there was this powerful and untold story about the strength and resilience of caregivers that needed to be shared,” said Chris Ferguson, the film’s executive producer whose interest in the topic developed after he founded an information technology and multimedia firm with a retired Navy explosive ordnance disposal master chief.
“The Next Part” will debut in the festival’s “After Words” category of short docs, described by organizers as films that are “at times political, occasionally provocative, and always personal, reflecting the past and illuminating the present.”
Kat and Aaron were approached last year to participate when Aaron was still receiving medical treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Kat said she was on board immediately, wanting to be provide “an honest portrayal” of the life of a military caregiver.
“I felt like they’d be able to get at the truth, to produce something that wouldn’t be hopeless but it wouldn’t be sugar-coated either,” she said.
Aaron took some convincing. The EOD tech, who retired in November, was finally swayed by his own experience coming to terms with infertility.
With medical retirement approaching, he knew that fertility services are covered only for troops on active duty. He thought a movie tailored to a general audience might call attention to the issues facing more than 1,000 injured post-9/11 veterans who need fertility services but have little or no coverage or financial support.
“You can only get IVF care when you are active and still in your recovery process. Who thinks that’s a good time? ‘Yeah, you’re not walking but let’s get going on having a baby or it may never happen,’ ” Aaron said. “We still deserve treatment after leaving the service.”
The 17-minute film was three months in the making, directed, filmed and edited in Maryland, Alabama and New York by young filmmaker Erin Sanger, a 2012 New York University Tisch School of the Arts graduate.
Sanger said she had no experience with the military before making the movie but was drawn to the Causeys’ story.
“I was impressed when I learned what the producers wanted to do. All of my films have had a female protagonist and when I met Kat, I knew she was a great person to tell this story,” Sanger said.
The Causeys — including their 11-week-old daughter, Alexandra Jayne — as well as Sanger, Ferguson and others from the production company Shoulder 2 Shoulder, will attend the premier, scheduled for Friday afternoon at AMC Loews in Greenwich Village.
Three additional showings also are selling out quickly.
“This is a little intimidating in a fantastic way and we’re really lucky to be involved,” Kat Causey said. “Not sure how it will be received, but this is our journey. It’s not everyone’s journey. Every caregiver and warrior makes their own decisions, their own choices, their own journey. This is ours.”