Courtesy GI Film Festival "Chosin" depicts American bravery in the Korean War.

'Chosin' wins top documentary

Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans Brian Iglesias and Anton Sattler lived out of a van and operated on a shoestring budget to complete “Chosin,” named Best Feature Documentary after the Fourth Annual GI Film Festival May 11-16 in Washington. The film chronicles one of the most savage battles in American history, the Korean War’s Chosin Reservoir Campaign. Gen. Walter Sharp, Commander of U.S. Forces Korea, introduced the film to an audience at the festival that included a group of Chosin veterans. “The story behind the making of ‘Chosin’ is as fascinating as the film itself,” said Brandon Millett, co-founder of the festival that received The American Legion National Commander’s Public Relations Award in March. “We were honored not only to screen the world premiere of ‘Chosin,’ but to also have the real heroes from the film in our audience. This is what separates the GI Film Festival from the rest. We don’t just screen films, we create experiences.” A panel of independent judges voted for the best films in seven categories. In addition to “Chosin,” other winners were: Best Narrative Feature: “Minus One,” directed by Jon Osbeck and Marc Wiskemann Best Documentary Short: “Prayers for Peace,” directed by Dustin Grella Best Narrative Short: “Head in the Sand,” directed by David Baldwin Best Student Film: “Ghost Soldier,” directed by Allan Tsao The Founders’ Choice Award: “Brats: Our Journey Home,” directed by Donna Musil The Military Channel Documentary Award: “The Surge,” directed by Jason Meath Of the 175 films submitted for this year’s festival, 35 were chosen to be screened during the five-day event, including 22 world premieres. The films covered every major military conflict, with themes ranging from courage and sacrifice on the battlefield to the struggles of homelessness and post-traumatic stress on the home front. Complete film descriptions, trailers, and filmmaker bios are available at the film festival's website.Among those screened was “Mother of Normandy: The Story of Simone Renaud,” directed by Doug Stebleton of Los Angeles and co-written by Jeff Stoffer, editor of The American Legion Magazine. They were interviewed in a video following the premiere.In addition to film screenings, the festival recognized real-world heroe during a congressional reception. Two Bronze Star recipients, Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Jamyn Peterson and Army Reserve Sgt. Brian Hawthorne, were honored by the festival with the GI Hero Award for their acts of bravery in combat.During the event’s Salute to Hollywood Patriots, Capt. Dale Dye received the GI Choice Award for his many contributions to military films as an actor and military technical adviser. Actor Ricky Schroder received the GI Spirit Award for his support and contributions to the military community, including “Starting Strong,” a new Army reality show he created, produced, directed and narrated.Festival screenings included actress Glenn Close’s directorial debut, Pax, the story of a dog trained by an inmate at a correctional facility that helped Iraq veteran Sgt. Bill Campbell cope with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.A panel discussion followed with Close, award-winning reporter Bob Woodruff and Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, Director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.The GI Film Festival also screened the documentary Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good, with special guest, actor Gary Sinise. A Filmmaker Boot Camp was hosted by the festival chairman, filmmaker and film financier Stephen K. Bannon.During the day-long boot camp, a panel of Hollywood experts taught budding directors how to finance, market and pitch their own films.“We could not be more proud of our filmmakers who earned rave reviews for their creative work,” said GI Film Festival co-founder Laura Law-Millett. “From start to finish, this year’s festival featured an incredibly diverse line-up. We are very pleased to provide a vehicle for films that honor men and women in uniform.”Sponsors for the 2010 GI Film Festival include: TriWest Heathcare Alliance, USAA, Accenture, IMAX, E-3, American Airlines, SAIC, Sony, Target, Dell, The Washington Examiner, The Hill, Stars and Stripes, The Military Channel, The American Life Network, WUSA-TV Washington, D.C., and The American Legion.