This Week’s Snag Film: A Fighting Chance

Kyle Maynard has never let anything hold him back...

Kyle Maynard, a born quadruple amputee, who through a “No Excuses” life philosophy has become a nationally-ranked wrestler, strength record-holder, ESPY award-winner, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, best-selling author, and MMA fighter.

A Fighting Chance” is a vivid, character-driven story unlike any before it.  Not only has Maynard learned to live life independently and without prosthetics, in the film he plans to fight in an official Mixed Martial Arts match – a highly controversial and dangerous goal – the film brings us to ask the question: what is a disability?  Should there be regulations against MMA fighting when such high risk is involved? The film ends with the climactic fight that will change Kyle’s life forever.

Maynard’s story is remarkable, and we especially think you’ll be touched by his work with wounded warriors, whom he calls “these heroes of mine.”  Plus, keep an eye out for a cameo by the USO’s own Sloan Gibson!

Like all Snag Films, this documentary is available to view and share for free, online, at any time.  We hope you’ll share it with the ones you love…

This Week’s Snag Film: Saint of 9/11

This week’s FREE documentary from Snag Films is SAINT OF 9/11 presents the remarkable journey of Father Mychal Judge. Compassionate champion of the needy and forgotten, a beloved New York Fire Department Chaplain, Father Judge was a humble priest who wrestled with his own private demons while touching others in powerful and miraculous ways.

Throughout his career as a friar, he lived a life of witness, action and love. He provided hope, warmth, compassion, and acceptance. SAINT OF 9/11 weaves interviews with friend and colleagues such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bill Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and Malachi McCourt, congregants and Mychal’s own words.

The film portrays Mychal’s life as a spiritual adventure and an honest embrace of life. SAINT OF 9/11 is the story of a life’s journey interrupted. Inspired by his life, the documentary embraces Mychal’s full humanity.

This Week’s Snag Film: Disco and Atomic War

Snag Film’s SummerFest continues with the world premiere of Disco and Atomic War, which asks the question: Did disco cause the collapse of the Soviet Union?

According to this lighthearted and informative film, nighttime soap operas and disco-dancing footage had as much to do with the Soviet’s demise as did any political movement.

Disco and Atomic War tells the story of a strange kind of information war, where a totalitarian regime stands face to face with the heroes of popular culture. Despite a ban on western media, from the 1950s onward many Estonias were able to easily pick up Finnish radio and television broadcasts from across the border with homemade antennas. Western popular culture had an incomparable role shaping Soviet children’s worldviews in those days—in ways that now seem slightly odd. Finnish television was a window to the world of capitalism’s pleasures that the authorities could not block.

Blending dramatic reconstructions with talking heads and archival footage, the film includes some brilliant scenes such as, for instance, the filmmaker’s rural cousin Urve reading the latest “Dallas” plot developments to the entire town.

Remember, you can watch this documentary and many more for FREE any time you like at Snag Films!  Check out the USO Theater widget on the homepage, and learn about the non-profits and filmmakers supported by these documentaries…

This Week’s Snag Film: Shooting Robert King

This week’s film, Shooting Robert King, is the second being offered as part of Snag Films’ SummerFest.  It tracks the life and career of a combat photojournalist over 15 years and three wars. From reckless naivety to maturity hardened by war and softened by the love of his family, the film provides an interesting window into the complexities of this man’s motivations and the lessons, for good and ill, that come out of his years spent documenting war zones.

While this film is aimed at an adult audience, know that the USO Theater will continue to offer a wide variety of material, from the purely escapist to the laugh-out-loud humorous to the somber and serious. Our interest here is to provide a diverse range of free films that can be educational, entertaining, and spark useful dialogues.  As always, let us know what you think…

This Week’s Snag Film: The Age of Stupid

Snag Films kicks off their SummerFest with The Age of Stupid, a film from Oscar-nominated actor Pete Postlethwaite (of The Lost World: Jurassic Park and The Usual Suspects fame) plays an old man living in the devastated world of 2055 in this documentary-drama-animation hybrid from Director Franny Armstrong and Oscar-winning Producer John Battsek.

“Runaway climate change has ravaged the planet by 2055. Pete plays the founder of The Global Archive, a storage facility located in the (now melted) Arctic, preserving all of humanity’s achievements in the hope that the planet might one day be habitable again. Pulling together clips of archive news and documentary from 1950-2008 to build a message showing what went wrong and why, Pete’s exploration surfaces compelling footage and complex issues facing us in our world today. He asks: Why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?”

And don’t forget that you can create a custom Snag Films theater widget any time you want!  We searched for the terms “military” and “soldiers” and found several fascinating documentaries, or type in “On Common Ground” or “Red, White, Black, and Blue” to get you started with some family-friendly fare.

You can always search for what interests you, and share these films whenever and wherever you like…

The Story – and the Soldiers – Behind Restrepo

We know that many of you experienced the documentary Restrepo at AFI SilverDocs and other special screenings.  Having already won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival this year, in addition to a host of other accolades, the film is continuing to open at more theaters across the country and we’re proud to help spread the word.   You can visit the official Facebook page for an updated theater schedule.

Today, we present an inside look into the work of the filmmakers, Sebastian Junger & Tim Hetherington, who traveled to the Korengal Valley to chronicle the deployment of the men of Battle Company, 2nd of the 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.  Hetherington – a contributing photographer at Vanity Fair – wrote this guest blog just for the USO, and he offers insight into the creative process, and how the film continues to touch both the audiences and filmmakers alike…

A few months ago, I received a phone call from Santana ‘Rudy’ Rueda, one of the soldiers from Second Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd Airborne. I was supposed to join him at a film festival in Missouri for a screening of the film Restrepo, but had not been able to make it there because of a snowstorm in New York. He sounded a little out of breath and stunned,

“Tim, man, you’re not going to believe this.”

“Why? What’s going on Rudy?”

“I – I’m standing across the street from the movie theatre, and they’ve got the name Restrepo in massive letters above it on the sign board. I can’t believe it.”

“That’s good huh?” I asked.

“Yeah – but I just never thought that I’d see my dead friend’s name written so large”, he replied.

From 2007-8, author Sebastian Junger and I followed a platoon of soldiers in the remote Korengal Valley. We wanted to make the most immersive and experiential war film we could. We felt that many in the US had no idea how soldiers actually live and fight, and our desire was to bridge that gap – to reconnect people in the country with what soldiers are doing out in places like Afghanistan. We purposely did not interview generals or politicians (the soldiers we were with didn’t) and avoided any voiceover commentary – we just wanted to show what the GI experience is like. We felt that the public needs to see, digest, understand and honor this regardless of political beliefs. We called the film Restrepo – named after the platoon medic who was killed early on in the deployment and the outpost that the men built and named in his honor. But we also felt that the name Restrepo signified the idea of every soldier and the loss that every soldier endures.

Since we have started showing the film across the country, we’ve had incredible responses. I’ve had wives come and tell me how the film has helped them understand what their husband go through and Vietnam veterans who say it spoke of their experience too. It also feels like the country wants to talk about the war in a way that is not divided along the usual partisan lines, and that people want to connect with those who fight on our behalf. Last week I traveled to Albany for a screening of Restrepo. Following a packed screening, the audience stayed on to listen to a Q+A with Brendan O’Bryne (one of the soldiers from Second Platoon), Troy Steward (a National Guardsman who now runs the military blog Bouhammer.com) and myself. What actually took place was something quite remarkable that more resembled a town hall meeting as people began to voice their thoughts about the war and the effects on soldiers. At one point Brendan declared,

“I learnt how to strip an M-4 in twenty seconds, and I can put one back together again in the same time. But I never learnt how to deal with seeing my friends killed. No one prepared me for that.”

At the end of the evening, people stayed on to talk to Brendan and Troy, each sharing experiences and insights. At one point I turned around to see Brendan hugging a woman who had lost her son in Iraq, and I thought to myself, if we can replicate what happened here tonight across the entire country – well, wouldn’t that be something.

*****

We want to extend a huge thank you to everyone involved with Restrepo and especially Tim Hetherington, for writing this blog.  And if you’re in the DC area tomorrow, you’re invited to come out to E Street Cinema for a Q&A with Sebastian Junger after the 3:00p show.  Hope to see you there!