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LIONESS tells the story of a group of female Army support soldiers who became the first women in American history to be sent into direct ground combat. Without sufficient training but with a commitment to serve as needed, these young women ended up fighting in some of the bloodiest counterinsurgency battles of the Iraq war. Lioness makes public, for the first time, this hidden history.

Told through intimate accounts, journal excerpts, archival footage, as well as interviews with military commanders, the film follows five Lioness women who served together for a year in Iraq. With captivating detail, this probing documentary reveals the unexpected consequences that began by using these Army women to defuse tensions with local civilians, but resulted in their fighting alongside Marine combat units in the streets of Ramadi. Together the women's candid narratives describing their experiences in Iraq and scenes from their lives back home form a portrait of the emotional and psychological effects of war from a female point of view.


Learn more about LIONESS and connect with the film:

See the Film

The Filmmakers

Meg McLagan

Meg McLagan is a documentary filmmaker and cultural anthropologist. Her film TIBET IN EXILE, co-directed with Barbara Banks, aired on public television and was screened at festivals and museums in the U.S. and Europe. She began her film career working as a producer on the highly acclaimed independent documentary PARIS IS BURNING. McLagan's work has been supported by the Sundance Documentary Fund, New York State Council on the Arts, The Fledgling Fund, Chicken & Egg Pictures, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Meg graduated from Yale with a BA in English Literature, and earned a doctorate in cultural anthropology from New York University. In addition to her film work, McLagan is the co-editor of Visual Cultures of Nongovernmental Politics, forthcoming from Zone Books.

Daria Sommers

Daria Sommers is a filmmaker whose work includes both documentaries and narrative fiction. Her previous films include EASTERN SPIRIT WESTERN WORLD, which was broadcast by PBS, BBC and CBC and premiered at the Smithsonian, and her drama READY TO BURN which received a PanavisionÕs New Director Award.

Daria began her career at PBS and her work has garnered support from the NEH, the NEA, the Sundance Documentary Fund, The Fledgling Fund, Chicken & Egg Pictures and NYSCA. She has been an artist-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony and Mass MoCA. She recently completed Sawadika American Girl, a screenplay about Americans in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Daria is a graduate of Oberlin College.

Festivals & Awards

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2008

Official Selection

Tribeca Film Festival 2008

Official Selection

Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2008

Official Selection


LIONESS tells stories that would otherwise have been lost to history.”


Lioness tells the stories of five remarkable women in difficult circumstances. It doesn't ask its protagonists to condemn the Iraq war and it doesn't use their stories merely to back up its own condemnation. But we can draw our own conclusions about whether the losses and sacrifices of these soldiers - and of the Iraqis they've faced - have been worth it.”

-The National

This thought provoking documentary far surpasses any sociopolitical agenda.”



Since its release in 2008, LIONESS has contributed significantly to the mainstreaming of the movement to recognize and respond to the needs of American servicewomen returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. As a catalyst for military-civilian dialogue, the film has led to tangible change in a number of arenas by framing an important but largely invisible issue in meaningful human terms. Among the film’s notable accomplishments is the activation of policy discussions between the Department of Defense (DoD), VA, and the House Armed Services Committee over how to document the service of women soldiers in operational missions outside their military occupations. This is crucial because it affects women’s ability to establish “service connection” for conditions related to their military service and thus their ability to receive appropriate VA benefits.

The film has also played an important role in support of recent legislation affecting healthcare for women veterans, namely the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, which was signed into law by President Obama on May 5th, 2010. Other significant changes resulting from the film’s outreach are the adoption of LIONESS as a training tool nationwide within the VA healthcare infrastructure, and its use in an innovative pilot program in North Carolina designed to support rural veterans by offering evidence based, best practice behavioral health training to non-VA mental health and primary care doctors.

Outreach Resources

LIONESS Impact Report

Download for more information on the outreach and impact of the film.


Center for Women Veterans, Department of Veterans Affairs


Disabled American Veterans


Women's Research and Education Institute


Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation


Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America


Women's Veteran's Network


National Association of State Women Veteran Coordinators


SWAN (Service Women's Action Network)