Faith in War

Article excerpt


The GI Film Festival (GIFF), held at the Washington, D.C., Carnegie Institute, May 14-18, showed cinematically what true grit and valor American soldiers possess, working to defend "God and Country," as GIFF's award-winning narrative short, so titled, compellingly presented.

Last month's premiere of "Brothers at War" (Capt. Isaac Rademacher and younger brother, filmed by brother Jake in Iraq), tapped for best feature documentary, pierced the dark cloud of negative media images - low soldier morale, confusion, bitterness - swept away by the film's portrayals of dedication, strength, heart, lots of heart, and a clear sense of purpose.

This is the second year of the festival attended by celebrities, dedicated to our soldiers, including Gary Sinise, James McEachin, Stephen Baldwin and John Ratzenberger and made possible by top corporate sponsors including Motion Picture Association of America.

MPAA Chairman Dan Glickman told me the festival shows how film "can do great things ... [as] powerful scenes from history. influence people's lives," especially the young.

Filmmakers such as Ken Wales, who directed "Amazing Grace" (2006), about William Wilberforce's crusade to abolish slavery in Britain, are playing a huge role in ensuring an accurate portrayal of some truly powerful scenes from history in which faith plays the key role.

Mr. Wales pointed out at GIFF's "Faith in the Foxhole" Friday forum that Stephen Spielberg incomprehensibly excised the key fact underlying "Saving Private Ryan" (1998): It was a chaplain, not Tom Hanks' character, Capt. John H. Miller, who saved Pvt. Ryan.

Mr. Wales is a longtime Hollywood filmmaker, with many other credits, including the celebrated CBS mini-series "Christy." Back in the 1950s, he came across Jack Warner's plans to turn the novel, "Sea of Glory," into what Warner dubbed "our finest film" ever, about four World War II chaplains who gave up their life jackets to the last four men on the sinking Dorchester. But plans for the film were soon scratched.

Mr. Wales never forgot this gripping story and by dint of perseverant effort, has now turned this moving story into the film, "Sea of Glory," due in theaters at year's end. As he described it, "it's a noble story" as opposed to dwelling on a negative issue like war bonds, depicted in Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers."

He is also in the development process for filming "With Wings as Eagles," sequel to 1981's Oscar-winning "Chariots of Fire," the true story of two British track athletes who compete in the 1924 Summer Olympics - one, a devout Scottish missionary, running for God; the other a Jewish student at Cambridge, running for fame and against prejudice. …