Dawn was such a fun film festival friend! She's so classy, smart and fun to hang out with, and I feel so lucky to have had such fine company for four days. Today I'm having a bit of withdrawal, knowing that I won't watch films all day and chat with her. (Thankfully we have another festival coming this weekend with improvisers from Chicago coming down to perform at ComedyWorx.)
Here are the films I saw on Saturday:
- Born Sweet
- Today is Better Than Two Tomorrows
- Book of Miri
- In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee
- Albert's Winter
- The Edge of Dreaming
While all of these films were really great, the film Restrepo was right up my alley. I've been studying the Vietnam War and how it relates to what's happening in Iraq and Afghanistan today. I'm interested in the experiences they are having there today, but you can't quite get that from the news. And not many of them want to talk about it when they return. This film was incredibly helpful, and reading what the website states will help you see why:
Restrepo is the feature-length documentary that chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. The movie focuses on a remot 15-man outpost, "Restrepo," named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military. This is an entirely experiential film: the cameras never leave the valley; there are no interviews with generals or diplomats. The only goal is to make viewers feel as if they have just been through a 90-minute deployment. This is war, full stop. The conclusions are up to you.
The Q&A after the film ended was also really wonderful. Tim Hetherington (co-producer/director/cameraman) took audience questions and answered them with ease and style. Like the website states, the film is not about politics, and Hetherington kept to that idea during the Q&A session. I'll paraphrase one of the things he said when asked about whether the U.S. should still be in Iraq & Afghanistan, "I can't tell you what to think. This is a democracy, and you have to make up your own mind. Besides, I'm British so you wouldn't listen to me anyway."
This is a film everyone should see; you absolutely fall in love with the soldiers in the film. For the sake of this film, it doesn't matter where you stand politically. It doesn't matter how you feel about the war. The bottom line is that these guys are there fighting on behalf of our country, and they should be respected and applauded for what they've been through (or are currently going through). That seemed to be the message from the filmmakers, but I can't speak for them here. The standing ovation from the audience when the soldiers stood gives me goose bumps just writing about it today. Everyone in that room was standing and applauding them.
Some of the things the film covered mirror some of the things in Abandoned Allies: you're fighting for the guy to your left and right, politics on a higher level aren't relevant at the moment because you're fighting to stay alive, you're focused on the mission at hand when you're on the ground. There were also matters related to the strategy of war: working with locals, building relationships, what happens when one group of soldiers rotates out and another comes in, and are the things we're doing to "help" locals really helping them?
When those soldiers spoke during the film, I saw the members of my own cast speaking nearly 40 years after their own service in Vietnam. I saw the same look in their eyes, the same pause when they talked about fallen soldies, the same dedication to keeping their memory alive with respect and dignity.
Restrepo is definitely a film that the Abandoned Allies audiences will enjoy. You feel like you're on the ground with them, a part of the brotherhood, and mourn with them--even though you're sitting safely in a theater. I really enjoyed the film, and want to watch it again. There's no secret why the screening was sold out.
Yes, Saturday was a great day! To all the folks who made it possible to attend: THANK YOU! You have given me such a great gift, and I'm so humbly appreciative.