GI Film Fest: Honor in the Valley of Tears

Originally posted by Jeremy Borden for the ON PATROL blog:

The annual GI Film Fest celebrates the “successes and sacrifices of the American military through the medium of film.” One of those films was Honor in the Valley of Tears, which tells the story of the Army’s A-Company during the Vietnam War.

Summary by Writer-Director Eric S. Dow:

The story of A-Company 1/8 4th Infantry Division, US Army during the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1967. In the men’s own words, through the stories they narrate, the film gives us insight into the time these men spent together and the bond they formed that remains unbroken to this day. The 4th Infantry Division is one of the only divisions that trained and retained its troops during the Vietnam War. The men of A-Company trained together for eleven months and served together for one year. Their story begins with basic training at Ft. Lewis Washington in 1965 and continues 40 years later at their last reunion in September 2007. Filming began September 27, 2007 in Houston, Texas during a reunion to honor First Sergeant David H. McNerney, who is the only living member of the 4th Infantry Division to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was celebrated by the men he trained and served with and who’s lives he saved on March 22, 1967. Conceived by executive producer John A. Ponsoll, whose father served with A-Company and had documented his tour of duty with a Kodak slide camera, the film honors the memory of A-Company 1/8 and documents their incredible courage and dedication to one another.

We caught up with the filmmakers and the hero of the film, former First Sergeant David H. McNerney.

This Week’s Snag Film: River Ways

The state of our lakes, rivers, and oceans is a hot topic in the news right now, so this week’s Snag Films documentary offering is especially prescient.  RIVER WAYS explores the lives of regular working people affected by the issue of four dams on Snake River in Eastern Washington.

Filmmaker Colin Stryker journeys to Washington state, where he chronicles the lives of everyday citizens struggling on either side of a divisive issue: whether to remove a series of hydroelectric dams from the Snake River. While groups of American Indians, environmentalists and fishermen advocate for removing the dams to replenish the local salmon population, farmers and other locals rely on the dams as an inexpensive source of electricity.

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This Week’s Snag Film: The Yunnan Great Rivers Expedition

If you like the great outdoors, then you’ll love The Yunnan Great Rivers Expedition – a whitewater expedition through the upper Mekong, Salween and Yangtze rivers.  And this documentary has earned a five-star rating from Snag Films viewers!

In a remote corner of Southwest China, three of Asia’s greatest rivers plunge off the Tibetan Plateau through steep canyons in the Himalayas thousands of feet deep.  This stunningly beautiful film captures the incredible journey of a whitewater expedition, as it explores the upper Mekong, Salween and Yangtze rivers.  More than a wild adventure, the two-month expedition was an ambitious partnership with the Nature Conservancy and the Chinese government to help protect one of the most biodiverse and culturally diverse regions in the world.

From the Mekong River’s hidden Moon Gorge in the Himalayas to the towering canyon walls of the Yangtze River’s Great Bend, an odyssey of exploration and adventure and environmental activism.

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USO & TriWest Screen “Brothers at War” at Smithsonian

It was a packed house on Wednesday night for the screening of the documentary film Brothers at War in the Baird Auditorium at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  Director Jake Rademacher and Executive Producer David Scantling were on hand to give guests a first-hand account of the story behind the film.

Brothers at War tells the story of the Rademacher family and how the experience of two of the brothers would forever change all of them.  Jake states in the film that he had to make Brothers at War because “I began to feel a distance for the first time between myself and my two brothers. I want to know what’s going on in Iraq because I have two brothers serving there. These guys are putting their lives on the line. Why are they doing that? I need to know.”

His brothers – Isaac and Joe – are the subjects of this fascinating journey from Syria to Iraq to Fort Bragg, and Jake learns firsthand the deep camaraderie formed by these men at war.  In one scene, Isaac, a Captain in the US Army, explained “These guys take you on as a brother.”

Also in attendance last night was Jake’s father, Dr. Dennis Rademacher, who shared on film that “It’s kind of a moving thing that one brother thinks enough of his other brothers to try to make a film about what they’re doing, and to try to understand sacrifice, commitment, something greater than themselves.”

The documentary has been an undeniable succes, winning in the Feature Documentary category at the  2008 G.I. Film Festival and premiering to a standing-room-only crowd of cadets at West Point.  Last night’s screening was co-sponsored by TriWest Healthcare Alliance and the USO, in coordination with the Smithsonian.  We hope you take a moment to watch the film’s trailer above and view the photos below.

Cindy McCain and David J. McIntyre, Jr. - the President & CEO of TriWest Healthcare Alliance - chat with a guest before the screening. (USO Photo by Em Hall)

Senator John McCain chats with Brothers at War director Jake Rademacher (c) and a guest during the reception for the film. (USO Photo by Em Hall)

Brent D. Glass - Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History - addresses the audience in Flag Hall. (USO Photo by Em Hall)