Remembering the cost of war is painful. It is a sobering reminder of the lengths at which some men go to obtain power and some men go to in the name of peace. Somewhere in the middle, the men and women who fight these wars stand the test of time as a symbol of a country’s shared sacrifice. These men and women stand as an example of the best that a country has to offer. Their stories serve as narrative into a part of our culture that many will never experience. Sharing these stories and honoring these men and women is at the core of the GI Film Festival, and its 6th annual incarnation showcased stories from all facets of the country and the world.
Entering its sixth year, the GI Film Festival returned to Washington, DC with fanfare, a record number of film submissions, a taste of Hollywood blockbusters, host of past and present Washington movers and shakers, and a plethora of past and present military servicemen and women. Founded by Brandon Millet and his wife Laura Law-Millett in 2006, the 2012 film festival started with former presidential candidate and Texas business man H. Ross Perot and screening of the award wining Korean war film Chosin. Next the festival moved to the steps of capitol hill with a reception at the U.S. Capitol Hill Visitor’s center featuring Criminal Minds star Joe Mantegna honoring the heroes of the Vietnam war. Wednesday saw the film fest travel to our neighbor to the north as the Canadian embassy hosted the event honoring the international warrior with long time Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak.
Thursday saw aliens invade the GI Film Fest as director Peter Berg brought his board game inspired summer blockbuster Battleship. The film was screened as a token of appreciation to those who had been wounded in the line of duty. The wounded warriors in attendance raved about the quality of the film, especially the inclusion of real active duty and retired military that were shown prominently through out the film. After the alien hangover of the previous night had dissipated, up and coming filmmakers were treated to a boot camp featuring representatives from various media groups including Discovery Communications, the DC Film Alliance, and the Pentagon Channel on Friday morning. That day’s events were capped with a special set of films and special reception to honor 9/11. The night’s film included 8:46, a narrative film looking at the lives of various characters before and after the events of 9/11. The next film From Philadelphia to Fallujah, followed the lives for three serviceman who played in the 2001 Army/Navy game and how their eventual deployment to Fallujah changed their lives.
Saturday saw the day’s block of movies capped off by the evening’s events dedicated to military spouses. To commemorate the night, stars of Lifetime television’s Army Wives were on hand to spotlight the important impact that military spouses have. Army Wives’ stars Brian McNamara and Sally Pressman were presented with an award of appreciation from the GI Film Festival for the show’s continued commitment to highlight the stories of military spouses.
Sunday brought a close to the festival with an impressive slate of films, a Stetson wearing comedian, and the elusive GI Film Festival best of awards. One of the day’s standout films was Patriot Guard Riders. The film is a documentary about a 200,000 strong motorcycle group who attend military funerals to honor the fallen, and to protect grieving families from a hate group who descend on the funerals and harass them. The film by filmmaker Ellen Frick, was a soul stirring look into the world of the riders that left the audience galvanized behind the rider’s mission.
As the night ended and after the awards were handed out, the closing night’s reception not only signaled the end of the festival for 2012, but it also signaled the continued growth of the GI Film Festival into different branches of media and a bright light for its continued growth and prominence in 2013.