“Tattooed Under Fire,” the documentary film produced and directed by University of Texas at Austin Radio-TV-Film Professor Nancy Schiesari, will premiere on more than 25 public television stations nationwide beginning Nov. 8.
In the heart of central Texas lies the city of Killeen–home to Fort Hood, America’s largest military base. Across the street is River City Tattoo Parlor, a place where many of the war-bound and returning soldiers go under the needle. An estimated 95 percent of the U.S. military sport tattoos. For those joining the ranks at Ford Hood, a pilgrimage to the River City Tattoo Parlor is an essential rite of passage.
“Tattooed Under Fire” is a unique, intimate, character-driven portrait of Iraq-bound and returning U.S. soldiers as they go under the tattoo needle, sharing their secrets and confessing their fears. It will air locally on KLRU, Austin’s PBS station, at 9 p.m., Nov. 10 and again at 1 a.m., Nov. 12.
River City Tattoo Parlor owner/artist Roxanne Willis and her team of tattoo artists welcome young men and women daily as they arrive, shed their uniforms and carve permanence into their transitory flesh. Some seek to adorn their limbs, make a statement, ward off evil with fierce engravings or honor a loved one. Some seek grizzlier images, like “meat tags.”
A play on traditional dog tags, “meat tags” are a morbid marker of name, date of birth and serial number, designed for posthumous identification. Tattooed just under the armpit on the torso, they are strategically located in the place most likely to remain intact in the event of death by roadside bomb explosion. The young men and women are introduced as they are being tattooed; raw recruits at first and then as returning soldiers, changed in ways only their fellow soldiers can grasp. Through the creative and sometimes subversive act of tattooing, these young soldiers use skin to create personalized images and words that reveal a seldom seen part of the psyche of the American soldier.
“Tattooed Under Fire” is a co-production of the Independent Television Service (ITVS) in association with KLRU-TV, Austin PBS. The film was edited by Radio-TV-Film alumna Christina Kim (BS ’06), executive produced by Alison Rooper, co-produced by Laura Sobel and associate produced by Carol Geiger.
View a trailer and find more information online.