'Human Terrain' is two stories in one. The first exposes the U.S. effort to enlist the best and the brightest of American universities in a struggle for the hearts and minds of its enemies. Facing long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.. military adopts a controversial new program, 'Human Terrain Systems', to make cultural awareness a key element of its counterinsurgency strategy. Designed to embed social scientists with combat troops, the program swiftly comes under attack by academic critics who consider it misguided and unethical to gather intelligence and target potential enemies for the military. Gaining rare access to war-games in the Mojave Desert and training exercises at Quantico and Fort Leavenworth, 'Human Terrain' takes the viewer into the heart of the war machine and the shadowy collaboration between American academics and the armed services. The other story is about a brilliant young scholar who leaves the university to join a Human Terrain team. After working as a humanitarian activist and winning a Marshall Scholarship to study at Oxford, Michael Bhatia returned to Brown University to conduct research on military cultural awareness. A year later, he left to embed as a Human Terrain member with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan. On May 7, 2008, en route to mediate an inter-tribal dispute, his Humvee hit a roadside bomb and Bhatia was killed along with two other soldiers. Asking what happens when war becomes academic and academics go to war, the two stories merge in tragedy.