New Film Festival Celebrates The American Soldier

New Film Festival Celebrates The American Soldier

U.S. soldiers aren’t nearly so psychologically messed up as they often seem on the silver screen. A growing film festival explores the unseen side of military life.

Last year, “American Sniper” surprised establishment Hollywood by portraying an Iraq War sniper as an unapologetic hero. To make matters worse in the eyes of the creative Left, the movie went on to be an unprecedented hit, grossing nearly $350 million domestically to date.

In the echochamber of leftist Tinseltown, this is a gross deviation from the standard playbook of portraying American soldiers as pitiful victims of a corrupt government or bloodthirsty evildoers in their own right.

“Sniper’s” success, however, is no surprise to Laura Law-Millet and Brandon Millet, the team behind the GI Film Festival. Nine years ago, they set out highlight movies that portray soldiers as they knew them and not as some screenwriter who never set foot on a battlefield imagined them to be.

“Laura had just seen a film where the GI characters were portrayed as drug dealers in the film,” Brandon recently explained in his office in Virginia, “And I had just read an article how there were going to be a bunch of films coming out of Hollywood that weren’t necessarily going to be portraying GIs in the most positive light.”

So they founded the festival, starting small with just three days of screenings. It has since grown to a weeklong event with multiple venues and plenty of side events.

Soldiers On Screen

Laura and Brandon know firsthand what they are talking about. Laura served in the Army for 14 years, stationed all over the world. The men and women she worked with have their own struggles, to be sure, but they didn’t match the conflicted, misused, or simply bad characters she saw on screen.

“The vast majority of men and women serve with honor and dignity and they serve with courage,” Brandon said.

Opening May 18 in Washington DC and Fairfax, Virginia, the GI Film Festival celebrates movies by, for, and about the military. This year it features more than 60 films from all over the world.

One film the duo can’t wait to show the audience is “Day One.” This true story tells what happened when a female interpreter working with soldiers in Afghanistan went to arrest a bomb maker. When the bomb maker’s wife goes into labor, they try to help. But it’s up to the interpreter, as the only woman present, to rise to the occasion.

“Kajaki” is a tense war film about British soldiers trapped in a riverbed full of land mines. A simple tale of survival becomes a story of brotherhood and heroism. The film was nominated for a BAFTA award in England.

Some star power will light up the event. Gary Sinise, who has been a tireless supporter of troops since his Capt’n Dan days in “Forrest Gump,” will be in town. There’s a Wounded Warrior Appreciation Night as well as homage to World War II’s Greatest Generation.

But the bulk of this event is about encouraging films and filmmakers to dive deeper into the stories of the people who put their lives on the line to defend freedom. Military members want to see themselves portrayed with their real struggles and victories. As “American Sniper proved,” everyday Americans want to see those stories, as well.

For more information on the GI Film Festival, check out their website. The festival runs from May 18 to May 24 in DC and Maryland.

Rebecca Cusey is a movie critic based in Washington DC. She is a member of the Washington Area Film Critics Society and a voting Tomatomer Critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey.
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