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April-24-01

Virtual Vigil

"Our men fought the war, and they were the soldiers. But the widows, we are the warriors. No one understands what we have to go through long after the war is over." These words are spoken by Norma Banks, who appears in the 1998 film Regret to Inform, a documentary that explores the lingering devastation of war by looking through the eyes of women who lost husbands in Vietnam. Directed by Barbara Sonneborn, the film received an Academy Award nomination and won Best Director at Sundance.

Now, Banks's story, and the stories of more than 50 other war widows from around the world, can be found at the Widows of War Living Memorial, www.warwidows.org, a Web site inspired by the film and launched last year by Sonneborn and Sun Fountain Productions. Like the film, the site is poetic, beautiful, and affecting. However, where the film is finite and fixed, the site expands and changes. Because visitors can contribute stories, photos, and audio/video streams, the site indeed "lives," personalizing women's war "stories" and offering solace and support to widows in places like Afghanistan, Haiti, and the Balkans. The memorial picks up where the film had to leave off and, in the process, demonstrates that Internet documentary has become a viable genre.

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