Yes, the GI FILM FESTIVAL is once again here and it is bringing the best films about the military world. Here is some of what you will see from October 18th till October 22nd from filmmakers with a story to be told.
On October 18th, the Opening Night Screening of THE 2 SIDES PROJECT tells the story of six U.S. sons and daughters who meet with sons and daughters of Vietnamese soldiers. What they have in common is the death of their fathers on opposite sides of the war. Visiting the sites where their fathers died, they are profoundly moved by their journey.
WORLD WAR II REMEMBERED – Part 1 begins the festival on October 19th with a block of shorts that include All American and a look at D-Day 72 years later from hero Les Cruise, The Rifleman’s Violin that follows the 90-year-old virtuoso violinist Stuart Canin and his time as a 19-year-old GI in Germany, WE CAN DO IT: Stories of Rosie the Riveter tells of the courageous laborers who came to be known by that name and changed the world, and finally HAPPY that tells the story of Larry ‘Happy’ Powell who flew 68 missions over Europe in World War II.
The final film of the night is THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE that tells the story of Adam Schumann, a young soldier who returns home only to find that home isn’t how it use to be. Dealing with trying to return to his life, Adam discovers that needing help is harder to get than he realized.
Family Movie Night is the Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Comics blockbuster WONDER WOMAN on October 20th. Presented on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum, all attendees will get a bag of popcorn and see an exclusive preview of the upcoming animated film SGT. STUBBY: An American Hero. The best part is that costumes are absolutely encouraged!
On Saturday October 21, WORLD WAR II REMEMBERED – Part 2 continues with Pearl Harbor Survivors Relive the Infamous Day and filmmakers speak to survivors about their experiences December 1941, Aircraft Warning Service Volunteer is the story of Betty Tenney of Carlsbad who volunteered with the Aircraft Warning Service, and Buddy’s Odyssey as B-17 Pilot Robert “Bud” Kingsbury and a sole survivor when he is shot down and his road to healing.
Also, USS Pearl Harbor gives us insight by Commander Ted Essenfeld through his thoughts and artifacts, Remembering Pearl Harbor: Mary Lou Mawhiney is a 94-year-old woman who shares her memories of surviving Pearl Harbor and finally The Last Ring Home with the story of World War II Lt. Minter Dial and a ring he wanted returned to his wife after being a prisoner of the Japanese for 2 ½ years.
AMERICAN VETERAN is the film about Army Sgt. Nick Mendes who became paralyzed serving in Afghanistan in 2011. The film talks about his life and where it has taken him. Julie Cohen is the filmmaker’s director and the founder of BetterThanFiction Productions. AFTER THE FIRE, set on a San Antonio outpost speaks to the challenges facing women veterans. Telling of their personal experiences and adjusting to military life, the film talks of combat injuries, bureaucratic dysfunction and sexual trauma.
Bill Cooper has just been discharged from the army and isn’t home long before disappearing. When his brother Joe comes to bring him home, there is a family that needs to come back together in HIGH LOW FORTY.
The Local Film Showcase are films Made By or Starring Veterans with Once Guilty, Now Innocent, Still Dead brings a 19th century legendary assassin to clash with a cattle baron, Fletcher & Jenks as a detective and rookie are on the case of a serial murderer, Forgotten Hero is a thriller of downed Soviet fighters who support North Korea in 1952, Black Christmas is the story of a man accused of a crime by just going out to the store, Child’s Play takes a jab at the Naval Academy, Refuge is 2049 and women are enslaved to bring back the male population, Call Me Ma’am is the true story of being a Navy officer from a woman’s point of view and USO San Diego 75 Anniversary tells the story of the volunteers who help bring home away from home to military personnel.
The Local Film Showcase: Deported Veterans begins with the story of Daniel Torres who was recruited into the Marines by lying that he was an American in Deported Veterans of American: Daniel Torres and Exiled tells of two green card hold immigrants who join the military and now find themselves deported.
The evening ends with the awards celebration to honor the filmmakers featured in the Local Film Showcase.
On the final day, Sunday October 22nd brings REMEMBERING THE VIETNAM WAR with Distinguished Wings Over Vietnam recounting the personal lives of four combat pilots who flew in the Vietnam war, risking their lives and how it changed their lives. The Vietnam War is the documentary series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that tells the story of the consequences, divisive and controversial events that are now part of our history.
TOUR THE FESTIVAL brings a collection of shorts beginning with The Colonel and Marine Colonel Hap Tasker being told heart problems could stop him from military service, Charlie & Sam shows us the World War II veterans that are still alive in 2016 and Charlie Edwards and Sam Takis reunite, finally Gary Sinise: Always Do a Little More tells the story of Gary Sinise and the origins of his commitment to the US military, veterans and first responders as well as their families and his dedication to them all.
Finally, the GI Film Festival closes with HOW WE HEAL and the unique ways our veterans become whole again in their way. Places Like This is a group of veterans who take a six-day winter trip into the Colorado wilderness through the Outward Bound program, and Comedy Bootcamp: The Documentary follows veteran comedians who use humor to share their stories through the Comedy Bootcamp program.
There is so much more to the GI Film Festival in San Diego so please visit http://gifilmfestivalsd.org/2017/ to see more of the schedule and purchase tickets. This is an amazing festival of talented filmmakers and the stories they share with us all.
Director Tom Donahue brings to the GI Film Festival San Diego a documentary about the journey of four Iraq War Veterans with THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.
This documentary hits to the heart of the struggles of veterans returning from Iraq. Struggling with different forms of PTSD, their lives are in a holding pattern. Soldiers who went through traumatic experiences were shutting down and having bad dreams. They didn’t want to talk to strangers who had no experience with PTSD about what they were going through.
Soldiers also believe there is a stigma attached to asking for mental health services. They leave their platoons and go home to families who immediately notice the changes in their love ones. There is such pain on the faces of these soldiers who are struggling to get back to a life and the families who love them.
The documentary allows us to listen to their stories of sheer pain at a level no one but a soldier could possibly understand. From watching friends die on a rooftop fire fight in Fallujah to the men of a platoon that caused civilian casualties – these soldiers may come home but it’s only to fight another war – the one inside themselves.
The military once had programs to help returning soldiers assimilate back into their American lives. Through rehabilitation and therapy, no soldier was discharged until they were ready. Those programs were stopped after World War II.
What are these soldiers to do? With the help of programs such as Save A Warrior, John Clark makes it his mission to help these men suffering from PTSD in all its forms. From meditation to a sweat lodge to climbing a pole and standing up facing fears, these men learn to embrace every aspect of their experiences and know they are not alone.
But more needs to be done and be done now. These soldiers do not need to wait one more minute to know their service was/is important. The only way to make them believe it is by providing the services necessary for success in their life now and in the future.
Tom Donahue has produced works that have won over twenty-five awards from Sundance, Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, SXSW, Venice, San Sebastian and Tribeca film festivals.
Hearing the stories of Kenny Toon, Phil Shaub and Lu Lubello are nothing short of heart wrenching (tissue is highly advised). Sharing their experiences and allowing viewers to be a witness to it all is more courageous than I could even begin to express to them.
It is disheartening that those in high office of our military haven’t grasped that these four men are a drop in the bucket of soldiers who need help. As a mother of an Iraq war veteran who struggles with PTSD, it was difficult to watch this documentary but absolutely necessary to do so.
There is a call for more help for our soldiers as well as a need for a Behavior Health Corps staffed with medical personnel who have studies, understand and deal directly with those suffering from PTSD.
I can not think of any parent who would disagree with the BHC coming to fruition. Our military history is one of sacrifice and, in many cases, thanklessness. Thanking a soldier for their service should include making sure they have every chance to succeed in their lives after returning home from war.
I want the words ‘thank you for your service’ to have heart and soul behind it!
Tonight at the GI Film Festival San Diego from director James Shelley is a look at how the world allowed the United States to be the AMERICAN UMPIRE.
This documentary gives us a history lesson on how the U.S. military came to be part of world conflicts. At the time of President Washington there were three rules regarding involvement in issues outside this country: 1) Washington’s Great Rule of avoiding foreign politics, 2) having no standing army and 3) stay out of foreign problems.
Those three rules stayed in place until World War I but quickly went back to avoiding other countries problems soon after. That would all change with World War II with Japan and Germany wanting to satisfy needs through conquest. As the war got close to home – Roosevelt sent letters to Hitler and Mussolini asking them to leave 33 countries alone. Hitler laughed at the request.
A peace time draft came about but Japan then bombed Pearl Harbor and Germany declared war on the United States. The U.S. is staying out no longer and once two wars are over and 70 million people have died, they create the United Nations.
The Truman Doctrine also comes into play as the Soviet Union is making governments nervous and Greece is having problems. England calls the U.S. for help. Truman has no choice but to tell Congress that troops need to return to Europe. This begins the Cold War and in 1947 Washington’s long standing three-rules is gone and The Truman Doctrine takes its place.
NATO and American sign an alliance and Western Europe begin creating things that have nothing to do with war. The second part of the 20th Century is considered the Golden Age as the Berlin Wall falls and the Cold War is over.
However, the U.S. continues to be the largest country to supply to other countries. European countries don’t supply anything to help in the ways of military protection. The belief is that if a country needs protecting, the U.S. will take care of it. This explains why countries don’t have a national defense of their own – why? – their view is that the U.S. can do it. It also means those same countries have more money for their citizens, education and infrastructure.
When a civil war breaks out in the Balkans and ethnic cleansing happens, no one wanted to put people in harms way to deal with the situation. Other countries began asking why the United States was not doing anything about the situation. Europe once again was asking the U.S. to solve their problems – so President Clinton does. “The Indispensable Nation” as Clinton calls it is seen by other countries as not giving one dime to help with the expenses.
The U.S. spends more on defense which leads to so little for its own citizens; in fact it spends more than all other large countries combined. The question remains – do we pull out or stay invested in the conflicts of these other countries.
Being an umpire in baseball also means backup just as indispensable doesn’t mean doing it alone. So how do we get other countries to participate? The United States needs to inspire other countries to want to help and become invested in policing their own country. They need to become more responsible so that the United States can spend money on education, citizens and infrastructure just as Europe does.
Directing and producing this documentary is James Shelley who owns Shell Studios based right here in San Diego. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and University of California San Diego, he is pursuing an MFA in Film at San Diego State University. AMERICAN UMPIRE is his PBS and broadcast debut. Congratulations!
AMERICAN UMPIRE is a documentary that takes the viewer by the hand one step at a time making this history lesson one that is understandable if not down right jaw dropping. I would truly love to see this documentary in high school class rooms because the history lesson here is spelled out loud and clear.
With our military stretched to its limits, AMERICAN UMPIRE explains why this is so and importantly what can be done to make other countries more responsible. That is what I was impressed with the most. Understanding that the U.S. does come to the aid when asked, it never occurred to me that the European countries asking for help have done nothing in the way of financial help or compensation. I kept thinking, “do they think our citizenry is any less important as theirs?” in what is needed to sustain our country.
I remember learning about isolationism in school but never grasping its meaning until later in my education. Personally I always thought it was a good idea, help when needed but otherwise countries should police their own. So it was amusing to me that it was brought up that ‘no one wants their 30 year old kid living in the basement’ which in essence is what other countries are to the United States.
Self reliance is the key and I couldn’t agree more. The audience reacted in the same way and by the documentary’s end, the applause was loud and clear for AMERICAN UMPIRE.
In its West Coast Premier at the GI Film Festival in Coronado is a documentary directed by Joseph Cahn telling us the story of THE UNIMAGINABLE JOURNEY OF PETER ERTEL.
The documentary begins with Peter Ertel in the 96th year of his life. An author, poet and pianist that is only a small part of this man who has a stunning story to tell. Born in Germany, Peter found a world inside books and in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. It was the only way he could separate himself from a father who was disappointed in his son.
Now a young man. he would find the love of his life in a young woman named Johanna but married life would be almost immediately put on hold. Adolf Hitler rose to power quickly and Peter had to become a soldier in the war he wanted nothing to do with. Quickly other soldiers and his superiors would take notice that Peter wasn’t a team player.
As a soldier Peter would be ordered from Germany to Russia and back again. The story told is about a man who continually finds favor with the universe as bullets fly and the brutal cold doesn’t take him. Becoming a platoon leader became Peter’s opportunity to save as many of his fellow soldiers as possible.
The story he tells of ‘cheating’ on reports to superiors is another way he could save not only his men, but innocent civilians. Trying to stay in contact with his wife Johanna, he received a letter from her stating that if he had the chance to turn himself over to Americans – that he should do just that.
That’s exactly what he did. Taken to prisoner camp in England, Peter would eventually find himself on a ship to the United States pulling into New York. Transferred to a prison camp in Alabama, he would learn to speak English and treated well. At that time he, and fellow prisoners, also learned of the Holocaust and Peter felt guilt by association that.
During his stay there would be a test that helped him become part of the German war solution for his people. In 1953, Ertel would come back to the United States with wife Johanna to begin the next chapter in his life. Living in Cleveland, Ohio, what happened in his life next gives us all hope that humanity was and is alive and well.
This is such a jaw dropping documentary because this man’s life had to be guided be a higher power. Being told by Peter Ertel own voice, I was extremely captivated from beginning to end. As each event in his life happened I found myself struck by how the emotions still ran so deep.
Joseph Cahn is a 30-year filmmaker and responsible for Victory Films which began in 2003. Putting together rare archival film, photographs and reenactments lends to a story that cried out to be told. There is a moment that isn’t so beautifully done and Cahn should be exceedingly proud of what he has put together in this documentary.
Every event, every emotion, every realization is on this man’s face. At the same time Peter Ertel is the definition of what a miracle walking looks like!
Tonight at the GI Film Festival San Diego playing at Village theatres in Coronado is filmmakers Christopher Upham’s piece RETURN to DAK TO.
This documentary tells the untold war story about the end of the Vietnam War. Ordered six hundred American soldiers by President Nixon to fight a 61-day siege, half of the men were lost. Returning to the United States, three hundred men went back to civilian life.
Forty years later there are five men who have not resolved what happened and the after affects in their lives. Returning to Dak To is the only way they can come to terms with themselves and each other.
This is truly an intense look at the lives of these brave men who are now able to tell the story of what happened during that 61-day siege. Part of having the opportunity to cover the GI Film Festival is the difficulty in keeping my emotions in check. There is absolutely no way to view these pieces and not be affected to the core.
Such is true with RETURN to DAK TO because these men have allowed cameras to follow their journey and let us listen to very personal stories. Every emotion is raw and genuine and when telling of history is extremely important for their healing and our understanding.
Collaborating with Upham is Paul Saltzman, Ellen Perry, Lynn Hershman-Leeson, Tom Schlesinger, Hisham Bizri and playwright John O’Keefe. This is Upham’s directorial debut and choosing such an intense historical subject matter proves that this filmmaker has the unique ability to bring the audience into a story that needed telling.
RETURN to DAK TO is only one of the incredible documentary’s and films that are at the GI Film Festival San Diego. For more of what they have to offer please visit http://gifilmfestivalsd.org/2016.
Join us in helping to celebrate the stories and the filmmakers who share the history of America’s military and those who serve. From film screenings, panel discussions, and family movie night, it is a festival that highlights San Diego’s military culture.
This Wednesday evening is the opening night of the GI Film Festival San Diego and the film that will be featured is the U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS: The Legacy.
The history of this ship is vaguely known accept perhaps for the infamous speech given by Robert Shaw playing the character Quinn in the 1975 Steven Spielberg film JAWS. The local sheriff Brody and Hooper along with Quinn are comparing scars. Brody asks what the scar is on the man’s arm and is told it is where he had a tattoo removed that said USS Indianapolis. Brody is blithely unaware of that means but Quinn’s answer stuns Hooper into momentary silence. Then Quinn tells the tale of the sinking and the aftermath in the water.
Now, the real story from those who were there is told in director Vladic’s documentary U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS: The Legacy.
During World War II, the military ship U.S.S. Indianapolis was considered a flagship with Captain Charles B. McVay, III. Sent on a mission to the island of Tinian, the ship delivered parts including enriched uranium for the atomic bomb known as Little Boy. After successfully delivering to the US air base, they began their return home.
Then, a ship from the Imperial Japanese Navy let loose a torpedo that would sink the ship. On board were 1,196 crewmen and as the ship sinks, 300 men drowned leaving over 900 to the ocean. These men were exposed to five nights of dehydration, burns, delirium, hallucinations, the sun and sharks.
The men were eventually rescued by a PV-1 Ventura piloted by Lt. Wilbur Gwinn and Lt. Warren Colwell. It would be Lt. R. Adrian Marks who would go against orders to land his plane in the water to save as many men from shark attacks as possible. Covered in rescued men, the wait began for other vessels to come.
Finally, the survivors are taken from the ocean but that is not where the story ends as the investigation into what happened before the torpedo. From a court marshal to the memories of those who survived, this is an intense look one moment that changed their lives forever.
This documentary speaks with the last survivors of the U.S.S. Indianapolis as well as the family of Mochitsura Hashimoto, the commander of the Japanese submarine I-58. Through his family it is explained what the Japanese captain thought would happen by firing the torpedo.
The U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS: The Legacy tells of their heroism and miraculous rescue from the survivors who still remember every little detail of their experience. From 1960 on, there is a reunion of survivors that come together to remember their fellow military men.
Director Sara Vladic is a member of the Producer’s Guild of America and has worked in film production before directing her feature film. She has taken the camera to those who can finally tell the story of the pride of the ship, the sinking, losing friends and defending ever action after.
Putting the photographs and survivors in this documentary offers such a visual timeline that is moving to the heart. This is a perfect film to be shared in all history classrooms as an example of the courageous acts and the choices made during war.
The U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS can be seen at the Museum of Photographic Arts Opening Night Feature at the GI Film Festival San Diego. The festival begins Wednesday, September 14th until Sunday September 18th and for more information please visit http://gifilmfestivalsd.org/2016/.
This documentary is a humbling visual experience and at the same time perfection to opening the film festival.