GI Film Festival kicks off

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 12, 2009) - The third annual GI film festival, a five-day celebration of the successes and triumphs of the U.S. military in film, is scheduled begin with a private event tonight and run through Sunday.

The festival, which includes 47 military films in every form from major motion pictures like "Valkyrie," to short films and documentaries, will take place at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

"The mission of the festival is to honor men and women in uniform through the medium of film," said co-founder and president Brandon Millett. "We have a diverse group of films that have one thing in common and that is that American GIs are always portrayed with respect."

The film festival came about in 2007, when he and his wife Laura, a West Point graduate and former major, became dismayed at a succession of anti-military films, and wanted to share the other side of the story.

"We weren't fans of the way GIs were being portrayed. In some of these films, they were being portrayed as drug dealers, thieves, cowards, murderers, things of that nature. We just felt that not only was this unfair, which it is, but it was also unwise," Millett explained. "We're living in a time of war and the last thing we need to be doing is tearing down our warriors. We need to be lifting them up.

"We knew there had to be films out there that told the other side of the story and they just lacked a vehicle. So we decided to provide one for them with a film festival. From the moment we started it, it sort of took on a life of its own," he continued, noting that the festival received 85 submissions the first year and more than 200 this year.

There's something for everyone, he said, from patriotic, heartrending films to historical documentaries to action films to gritty combat films.

"Whatever kind of military film you like, we have to offer. It's possible to sit through our entire slate of films and experience every single human emotion," Millett said.

For example, Millett described "Injuries Slight, Please Advise," to be screened at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, as a real "Indiana Jones" film. It's about Capt. Charles Sullivan, an Army Air Corps fighter pilot, who was shot down over New Guinea during World War II and survived a month in the jungle, even escaping a group of headhunters. Sullivan is still alive and expected to be in the audience.

"That's what's important about our festival," said Millett. "We don't just screen films. We create experiences for people. You actually get to meet these GI heroes."

Except for "Valkyrie," starring Tom Cruise - to be shown to wounded warriors in a special screening Thursday evening - and HBO's "Taking Chance," starring Kevin Bacon, the films are all premiering at the festival, and most are by independent, professional filmmakers.

"Triangle of Death," about Marines in Iraq, was actually shot by an active-duty Marine, Cpl. Folleh Tamba. Millett said his camera was destroyed by an improvised explosive device the third day of filming, but Tamba kept working to produce what Millett called some of the most intense combat footage he's seen in three years of reviewing films for the festival. Tamba has a degree in film and video, but serves as a rifleman. The film is scheduled to run 1 p.m. Sunday.

Millett said that other aspiring filmmakers, especially servicemembers, can contact the organization through its Web site (<a href="http://www.gifilmfestival.com"target=_blank>www.gifilmfestival.com</a>) for advice, and can also attend a special session at 9 a.m. Friday. The panel will include industry insiders from Hollywood to teach tips and strategies for success in the industry.

Millett said that all servicemembers who want to attend the festival will receive a military discount of 20 percent. Tickets are available for individual events, as well as the festival as a whole, and can be purchased in advance online, or at the door.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16