In 1946 Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini made a film called "Pais " -- criminally hard to find here -- whose six episodes depict the Allied liberation of Fascist Italy between 1943-45 through the eyes of ordinary people interacting with, primarily, U.S. GIs. These vignettes often turn on misunderstandings due to language and O'Henry-like twists, but "Pais " features pretty keenly observed portrayals by a non-American filmmaker -- and it brims with a deeper, more serious appreciation for the Yanks that we are no longer so sure greets our troops abroad.
Certainly not in 1993 Somalia, when a one-hour helicopter mission to capture two aides to warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid in Mogadishu's Bakaara Market neighborhood turned into 15 hours, with 19 US troops and 1,000 Somalis killed. A convoy of the 10th Mountain Division rescued survivors. Ridley Scott put that onscreen in late 2001 in the utterly riveting "Black Hawk Down," which you can see, along with Stanley Kubrick's classic "Dr. Strangelove" (1964), in 35 mm as part of Fort Drum Night at the Palace Theater on the 17th.
Fort Drum is home now to the 10th Mountain Division and there's another movie screening to get the evening underway. Abbie Kealy's documentary "The Last Ridge" (2007) harks back to World War II's Italian campaign, the founding of the 10th Mountain Division and its current generation. Kealy, who lives outside Baltimore and often makes documentaries for PBS, inherited the letters and diaries of her uncle, Pfc. Stuart Abbott, a 10th Mountain soldier from Chicago who died at 18 on Italy's Mt. Belvedere the day after writing a last letter to his mother in which he looked forward to "curling up with a good book and an entire pan of hot buttered popcorn."
Kealy says she's known about her uncle's service in the 10th "since I could lace up my ski boots," but it was a request for photos from historian McKay Jenkins for his own book that prompted Kealy to plan her film (and adopt his title).