It's a dirty job but someone has to view 'em!


GI Film Festival San Diego

THE BLACK STRING is a Trip of the Mind

The Black String DVD

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to DVD and screening at the GI Film Festival San Diego from director Brian Hanson and Lionsgate is a story of twists and bends and a trail of THE BLACK STRING.

Jonathan (Frankie Muniz) is a lonely young man who works in a convenience store. He is avoiding his parents and takes advice from friend Eric (Blake Webb) on how to get out into the world. One night at home he sees a commercial for companionship and is drawn to call. The next night he has a blind date with Dena (Chelsea Edmundson) who rushes Jonathan into spending the night.

The next morning Dena is gone but leaves behind a mysterious rash and Jonathan is instantly freaked out. If that isn’t enough, he starts experiencing strange disturbances that turn into actions he knows are caused by whatever is eating at him. Looking for answers, Eric and his parents decide he is detached from reality and so the fight begins to prove what he knows is true with the forces that are pushing everyone away.

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Turning to a woman named Melinda (Mary K. DeVault) for help, she tries to guide him before turning back is no longer an option. Explaining that she knows exactly what he is going through, the process if painful, terrorizing and one that begs the question of who is responsible and how can they be stopped!

Muniz as Jonathan is a young man who clearly is not the popular guy in town. Rather shy he is often mistook for someone who can be pushed around and easily manipulated. He lets things go, that is until pushed to his limits trying to survive something he doesn’t understand. Muniz makes that performance terrifyingly believable and that’s important because this story is deliberate in the telling leaving each encounter creepier than the last.

Webb as Eric is the outgoing, a little nutty and colorful friend to Jonathan, that is until he sees something happening to his friend that he can’t handle. DeVault as Melinda tries to help Jonathan as much as she can without getting herself back into a place that obviously terrifies her.

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Shout out to Alexander Ward as The Entity because anything that does what his, well, entity does is just a tad creepier than I need. It is a creature that I think we’ve all dreamt about in our scary dreams and here it is in the flesh so to speak.

Other cast include Richard Handley as Dr. Ronaldi, Colby French as Mr. Marsh, Laura Richardson as Mrs. March, Ravi Patel as Dr. May, Jackie Moore as Lollypop, Jenny Strubin as Winter, Gary Sievers as Homeless Mike and Cullen Douglas as the Man in Black.

Lionsgate is a global leader in motion picture production and distribution for theaters, television, home entertainment and more. Theater franchises include THE HUNGER GAMES, and DIVERGENT along with JOHN WICK. Now, adding this film to its 16,000 motion picture and television titles and you can see everything coming soon as well as available now at

The DVD and Digital Special Features include Audio commentary with Director and Cowriter Brian Hanson and Producer Charles Bunch, String Theory: The Making of THE BLACK STRING Featurette, Deleted Scenes and Alternate Takes.

THE BLACK STRING was the Official Selection at the Austin Film Festival in 2018 and will be a feature film presented at the GI Film Festival in San Diego in late September. If you want to enjoy a fright on the big screen visit to purchase tickets and view the schedule time.

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Muniz gives a performance that adds to the films deeply disturbing story. Trying to make his way in the world with parents who don’t see his potential, it doesn’t help when he takes a step forward to try and date. Although I personally wouldn’t call a hotline for that, the character of Jonathan would and it’s believable.

The creepiness of the film is watching Muniz character try and discover what is true and what isn’t because, at times, I wasn’t sure myself. When he is told that he answers are right in front of him, I went on the hunt for clues right along with the character. That’s always a fun way to keep the scary in check.

Of playing the role, Muniz says, “It’s amazing when you can look at a project you’ve done and say ‘man, we worked hard’. I am thrilled with it and I hope people enjoy it to.”

In the end – paranoia cuts deep!


Frankie Muniz Talks THE BLACK STRING

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Jeri Jacquin

Screening at the GI Film Festival in San Diego this year on Friday, September 27th at the Museum of Photographic Arts and Made by Veteran/Military is the twisted mind thriller THE BLACK STRING.

Frankie Muniz stars as Jonathan, a young man trying to find his place in the world and after an encounter with a strange girl finds himself horrified by what begins happening to him. Trying to get others to believe what he says is true proves to be difficult and there is something terrifying close to him. THE BLACK STRING is a mind bending thriller that keeps the viewer wondering what is true and what is an illusion which means we are with Jonathan all the way.

Muniz is best known for the family sitcom Malcom in the Middle and on the big screen with AGENT CODY BANKS. From the 90’s well into the 2000’s, Muniz was nominated and won awards for his work. Not resting on his Hollywood laurels, he has tried everything from music, to racing and a olive oil and vinegar business, participating in Dancing with the Stars (coming in third thank you very much!), co-hosting on Dancing with the Stars Juniors and so much more.

I had the opportunity to speak with Frankie about his role in the film THE BLACK STRING and found him to be exactly as I expected – charming and hoping his work pleases audiences.

Jeri Jacquin: Good morning Frankie, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.

Frankie Muniz:  Of course.

JJ: I am thrilled that your film THE BLACK STRING is playing at the GI Film Festival.

FM: Yes, director Brian Hanson and producer Richard Handley are going to be there as well.

JJ: They are under the category of veterans that have made films. How did you get involved in the project?

FM: We filmed the movie three years ago and To be honest I was sent the script, and I loved it. It was so different and dark and a different character from anything that I’ve gotten to play before. I actually went into LA to audition for it and it was the first time I’ve done that in a very long time. I was passionate about the project and wanted to be part of it. I was thrilled that they chose me and had a great time filming it. I’m even more thrilled by how the movie turned out. We had a very, very small budget but you can’t tell. When you see the film it looks big and they did a great job all around and I’m happy to be a part of that.

JJ: First of all this is a very twisted film in the sense that you never know which way it is going to go. You carry the film in that your character is always trying to figure out what is real which means we as the viewer wonder what is real.

FM: Yes, as an actor I just wanted to play it 100% real. Believe me if I was in that situation and I thought a cult was coming after me, this is how I would react. It can be difficult to tell that story especially when no one else believes you. We just really needed to figure out what level in the script that is crazy or maybe called passion. The crazier you seem the more passion you put in trying to fight for what you believe. You are trying to explain what is happening to everyone else. I never really have gotten to play a character like this in a dramatic way. I really, really loved it. I enjoyed playing this character and I’m proud of how it turned out. As an actor I usually don’t care about myself but I have to say that I’m really, really happy with the job I did and I hope everyone sees it. I hope people will look at me different as an actor.

JJ: What you managed to do is take a character that everyone already had an opinion of before the scariness started and it set up the stage for everything else.

FM: Exactly, what I like about this character in the beginning is that there is the backstory of a young man trying to better his life. Maybe when he was younger he had problems and rough days with a past with psychological episodes but now he works hard. He’s not at his dream job but he’s showing up, doing a good job and trying to better himself. Everyone else kinds of sees the fact that one time in high school he had that episode. Seeing that and when you learn those things about why everyone is dismissing him and his claims of what happened – even the doctor is like ‘it’s not a big deal’. Everybody dismisses every aspect of what he is believing about what is going on. It is hard on the viewer because you just don’t know.

JJ: This will make you happy then, I was yelling at the screen wanting everyone around him to just listen! Jonathan is very specific as to what happened and his parents are like ‘go to your room’.

FM: Imagine how hard that is for someone that truly, truly believes something and nobody believes him. It would make you go crazy. He really believed what happened and wants to fight for it. He wanted to find the answers no matter what it took, even if he had to run around town in his socks!

JJ: So, this is the one big question – what is your take on the character Homeless Mike?

FM: When I think of the character Homeless Mike, when you see him in the beginning Jonathan is in the convenience store and he’s just a crazy guy looking through the window. There is this view that when people see someone like that then he must be crazy. Jonathan becomes deep in the arc of almost becoming Homeless Mike himself. He is just one step away from it all. So you think maybe that’s how Homeless Mike got there and maybe it’s a reflection of where Jonathan is headed. Maybe I’m just reaching but that is what I imagined when I saw the character in the film.

JJ: What I would add to that is that Mike knew something was coming when he was staring at Jonathan the first time in the window.

FM: That could be true. There were more scenes with Homeless Mike but they didn’t make it into the film. I agree with that.

JJ: I reminded me of a scene in the movie ALWAYS where Richard Dreyfuss says that maybe homeless people are like antennas and they can tune into things we can’t. That’s what I thought of Homeless Mike. When Homeless Mike looks at Jonathan through the glass it’s almost like he is trying to tell him something.

FM: Oh yes, absolutely, I can see that.

JJ: Jonathan almost had the same look as the film goes on.

FM: There is a scene where Jonathan sees Dena in the house and runs to Eric at the convenience store and up against the glass. A moment shared between me and Homeless Mike.

JJ: You are right about the look of the film, the special effects are so well done. Added to that is I couldn’t stop watching how you were handling things. I also don’t think I’ll look at black string the same way every again. The effects are amazing.

FM: We had this special effects crew that was amazing. The resources that were used for the budget are surprising but that says a lot about Brian and the producers. I am so thrilled how it all turned out. It’s amazing when you can look at a project you’ve done and say ‘man, we worked hard’. I am thrilled with it and I hope people enjoy it to.

JJ: I watched the film at night which made it even creepier!

FM: It will do that absolutely.

JJ: I believe you carried this movie so well Frankie and you did a wonderful job. I appreciate all you did and all Brian did to bring THE BLACK STRING to the screen.

FM: I appreciate that so much Jeri thank you.


Prepare yourselves for a mind bending tale of illusion and reality with THE BLACK STRING starring Frankie Muniz.

The writer/director Brian Hanson served in the US Army with the 75th Ranger Regiment deployed several times to Afghanistan. He volunteers with Veterans in Media & Entertainment (VME) and grew up in Escondido studying film at Palomar College and SDSU.

Producer Richard Handley is also familiar with San Diego as he began his medical career stationed on the USS Constellation at a Lieutenant in the US Navy. He earned an MFA in Film from Mount St. Mary’s University and a Graduate Certificate in Producing from UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television.

The GI Film Festival is returning to San Diego for another opportunity to show some of the most amazing films, documentary’s and shorts created and performed for our military. For further information on purchasing tickets and scheduling please visit

THE BLACK STRING is also coming to DVD from Lionsgate who is a global leader in motion picture production and distribution for theatres, television, home entertainment and more. Theatre franchises include THE HUNGER GAMES, and DIVERGENT along with JOHN WICK. Now, adding this film to its 16,000 motion picture and television titles you can see everything coming soon as well as available now at

In the end – paranoid cuts deep!

GI Film Festival Coming to San Diego

GI Film
Jeri Jacquin
The GI Film Festival is returning to San Diego for another opportunity to show some of the most amazing films, documentary’s and shorts created and performed for our military. This year the festival begins on Tuesday, September 24th with an Opening Night at the Theatre of Photographic Art and a showing of TAKE ME HOME HUEY.
TAKE ME HOME HUEY documents contemporary artist Steve Maloney’s transformation of a wounded warbird, into a colorful sculpture. As the battered helicopter becomes whole, stories of Vietnam veterans and their families parallel the healing journey of Huey #174, and viewers begin to understand what veterans must face finding relief from trauma sustained during the war.
Following the opening film is a reception to discuss the film with a panel in the museum’s David C. Copley Atrium. There is so much more at the G.I. Film Festival continuing on Wednesday, September 25th at the Museum of Photographic Arts with the 5:15 showing of the film MOSUL.
 The film tells the 2014 story of a city that is overrun by ISIS fighters. By 2016 Iraqi soldiers and others fight to liberate Mosul. Iraqi journalist Ali Mula goes along to discover the stories and asks the question ‘is the fight with ISIS over?’.
The second film of the evening is HOMEMADE, a film that follows Marine Adam Sorensen and his life after the war. This is an emotional film of readjustment to life and the transition of military to civilian life. Six years of filming from being wounded in combat to what can only be described as traumatic transition, I think we all know someone who can relate to this journey.
On Thursday, September 26th at the Museum of Photographic Arts, the film THE WHISTLEBLOWER screens. Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson saw what happened on March 16th, 1968 and the incident in the My Lai village in Vietnam during the war. Unable to stop what killing around him, Thompson reports the massacre to military high command that brought about a trial for the ages. The film also sees the after affects through the lives of others to teach a generation about war.
Following the film WHISTLEBLOWER is the Drama Block: The Intense Stories of Service with shorts including That’s Mine, Escape by Sea, Breaking Point, A Soldier’s Way, Reddog, and Entrenched.
Friday, September 27 at the Museum of Photographic Art is the Drama Block: Not Your Everyday Story with #3 Normandy Lane, A Rodeo Film, The Man I Want to Be, Last Taxi Dance, Polka, The Real Thing, This One Step, and Deviant. Each of these shorts is either made by or stars military or veterans. Following the screening there are discussions with the filmmakers and the actors which is a fantastic way to learn more about each of these pieces.
Following the shorts is the film twisted thriller THE BLACK STRING, starring Frankie Munoz. The writer/director Brian Hanson served in the US Army with the 75th Ranger Regiment deployed several times to Afghanistan. He volunteers with Veterans in Media & Entertainment (VME) and grew up in Escondido studying film at Palomar College and SDSU.
Producer Richard Handley is also familiar with San Diego as he began his medical career stationed on the USS Constellation at a Lieutenant in the US Navy. He earned an MFA in Film from Mount St. Mary’s University and a Graduate Certificate in Producing from UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television.
Saturday, September 28th is a full day of film at UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center in Mission Valley. Starting with the documentary SUNKEN ROADS: Three Generations After D-Day. This is the story of those who were there on June 6th and their return to Normandy. This documentary will squeeze your heart and open your mind.
Next is the documentary DONUT DOLLIES about the Red Cross Donut Dollies who were brought in to help the troops but truly had no idea what they were getting into. Forty-seven years later these women come together to share their stories and talk about the memories they kept to themselves.
The next documentary is ISLAND SOLDIER that introduces a story that I had only hear faint stories of but now know so much more. It is the story of Microneasians who joined the US military and were sent to Afghanistan. This story tells the effects to the people and island they leave behind.
Later in the evening is the Awards Celebration at the Parq Event Center. It is an opportunity to recognize those who have shown excellence in filmmaking. The event will be hosted by Navy Officer Jamie Kaler.
The final day of screening, Sunday, September 29, begins with Doc Block: True Stories of Survival and Heroism at UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center in Mission Valley. Beginning with Team River Runner – Beyond Padding, Ocean Station November, The Invalid Corps, XVII Carvings, Under the Needle and Finding Satan.
Next is the Vietnam Block of shorts with Vietnam Aftermath, Others May Live: American Patriot, and Remains: The Search for SFC Samuel J. Padgett. These are documentaries about Vietnam and the Veterans who served. There is a panel discussion with filmmakers and actors to follow.
Finally, SCRAMBLE THE SEAWOLVES is a documentary about the US Navy’s first and only Attack Helicopter Gunship Squadron. Started in 1967, it has only taken fifty years for their story to finally be told.
This is an amazing schedule of films, documentary’s and shorts as only the G.I. Film Festival can bring to San Diego. The GI Film Festival San Diego ‘aims to reveal the struggles, triumphs and experiences of service members and veterans through compelling and authentic storytelling. ‘
Partnering with KPBS, the GI Film Festival has continued to bring such amazing pieces that bright about thought provoking discussion and so much emotion. Each day brings a new aspect of history through filmmaking for everyone to learn what may not be in the history books about war but also hearing from those who experiences it.
Although I highly recommend this festival to family’s who have service members but also everyone else as well. It is such an education in so many ways in the stories that are told about war but how our society in recent years has had to reach out more and more. We can no longer let our military return from war and veterans suffer in silence with their experiences.
Attending the GI Film Festival San Diego is amazingly easy, please visit to see the listing of screening times and purchase tickets. There is also an All Access pass that allows you into the screenings and events which is the best way to spend the week!
The GI Film Festival San Diego represents the best and brightest is film making telling the stories that we all need to not only see but experience.

GI FILM FESTIVAL Comes to San Diego!


Jeri Jacquin

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 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.


DEFYING THE NAZIS: The Sharps’ War Premiers at GI Film Festival San Diego



Jeri Jacquin

Tonight premiering at the GI Film Festival San Diego is a documentary film from Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky, III with DEFYING THE NAZIS: The Sharps’ War.

Waitstill and Martha Sharp are an American couple living in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Waitstill is a minister and Martha is a supportive wife who is raising their children. Prior to World War II the couple is approached to do missionary work in Europe helping fleeing refugees.

Leaving their two children, the couple went to England to learn the techniques of data collection and how to destroy documents if discovered helping refugees. The Sharps’ were going into Prague as people were trying to get out.

They opened an office and began to find ways for people to escape safely. Knowing they were being watched by the Gestapo, it becomes a matter of life and death to help people. One such group were children who had to say a final goodbye to their parents not knowing if they would see each other again.


On March 15, 1939, Czechoslovakia was taken over by the Nazis. Marching into Prague, the Jews were made to stay in check as new rules were put into place. Now the Sharps had to burn all of their paperwork while listening to Hitler speak. It was, as they said, ‘the front lines of Nazism’.

Those they had been helping now scattered and the Sharps tried quickly to find those who needed to get out immediately and the local church became the place to meet. One such trip was taking people through Germany disguised as workers just to get them to London.

Eventually the Gestapo closed in on the Sharps, so close that the couple would have to separate as Martha continued with the refugees and Waitstill headed to Paris to find funding so they could continue their work.

In August 1938 the Gestapo wouldn’t allow Waitstill to reenter Prague and Martha barely had enough time to escape. They board they Queen Mary and raced through the ocean waters as war was now declared and their ship would be a target of war.

Finally home with their children, they wouldn’t be there long when in 1940 the people from Czechoslovakia they resettled in France were once again in danger as that country falls to the Nazis. Opening an office in Portugal, the couple once again found ways to help as many people as they could.


The mass exodus brought Hastings home quicker than his wife Martha. She stayed behind to save as many children as possible because, once again, parents entrusted their children to be saved never knowing if they would see each other again. In December of that year she would arrive with all the children she meant to help save.

In 2006, the Sharps were recognized at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem as “Righteous Among the Nations” which is the highest honor given by the State of Israel to non-Jews. The Sharps are two of the four Americans to receive this award.

This documentary is a co-production of NO LIMITS MEDIA Inc. and Florentine Films in association with WETA and Farm Pond Pictures.

Director Burns has been making films for more than thirty years and his piece Brooklyn Bridge was nominated for an Academy Award and twelve of his films have received Emmy’s. Co-Director Joukowsky has culminated his several-decade research on his grandparents’ lives. He formed the Sharp Archives at the U.S. Holocaust Museum and the Brown University Library.

Told from the perspective of the Sharps’ daughter Martha Content as well as family friends and survivors, this documentary is just the truth of the spirit of this couple. Tom Hanks reads the letters of Waitstill to Martha over the years, which is just wonderful.


It is the dedication of these individuals who didn’t believe they were special but only moved to help those who desperately needed it is amazing. Putting themselves in harms way in situations that had me holding my breath, the Sharps never stopped no matter how scary. Being watched by Gestapo that could have taken them at any time, they continued to safe those they could.

This is truly not only a story that needed telling but should be shared as much as possible. It is a teachable moment in how this couple made a difference in the lives of so many in a time where life was counted in seconds. Some were reunited with families and some were not, but those that were not found hope knowing that there families would not have continued on without the decision of their parents and the Sharps.

DEFYING THE NAZIS: The Sharps’ War is brilliant and a documentary that will bring tears of sadness but, more importantly, thankfulness from those who found love and family thanks to one brave couple.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE at the GI Film Festival San Diego



Jeri Jacquin

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!

AMERICAN UMPIRE Strikes at the GI Film Festival San Diego



Jeri Jacquin

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.




Jeri Jacquin

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!

RETURN to DAK TO at the GI Film Festival San Diego



Jeri Jacquin

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

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.

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