This Week’s Snag Film: Paragliding Across America

Paragliding Across America – this weeks’ FREE documentary from Snag Films – tells the story of the first paragliding expedition attempting to cross the United States from coast to coast, California to North Carolina.

Will Gadd, holder of the world paragliding record for distance, leads the first paraglide expedition attempting to cross the United States from coast to coast, California to North Carolina.  An epic six-week thrill ride at altitudes as high as 17,000 ft., never knowing where they would land and what they would find on the ground, and always captive to the winds, storms and thermals.

This Week’s Snag Film: Okie Noodling

Leave the fishing pole at home! This form of fishing isn't for the faint of heart...

This week’s free documentary from Snag Films is Okie Noodling, a profile of the culture and sport of noodling, the deep-rooted Southern practice of barehanded fishing. This intimate, and often violent, tradition has its roots in Native American hunting practices and has been passed through generations of southerners for hundreds of years. The Sooner State is one of the last to allow this ancient and controversial fishing technique.

Through personal stories of Oklahoma – fisherman, game wardens, noodlers and historians, Okie Noodling, a one-hour documentary, gives a voice to this vanishing feature of American rural life. Noodlers dive into creeks, rivers and lakes swimming under embankments in search of catfish nesting holes. As Burkhard Bigler of the Atlantic Monthly explains, “Wading along the shore or diving to the lake bottom, (the noodler) reaches into likely nooks and crevices, wiggling his fingers and waiting for a nip. When it comes, he hooks his thumbs into the attacker’s mouth or thrusts an arm down its throat and waits for the thrashing to stop. If he’s lucky, the thing on the end of his arm is a catfish.” The result is scraped and bloodied limbs and occasionally broken bones. Each noodler bears the scars of the battle.

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So Very Far From Home – Watch the Documentary Film for Free

So Very Far From Home tells the stories upon which Steven Spielberg’s epic film Empire of the Sun was based, as told by the people who lived it.

So Very Far From Home tells the stories of American, British and Australian children sent to brutal, overcrowded prison camps in Japanese-occupied China during World War II.  While the war eventually ended, China still lives in their hearts today.

For Patricia Dunn Silver, it’s the memory of July 4, 1943 when a group of imprisoned parents and children defiantly sang the one song their Japanese captors had forbidden—The Star-Spangled Banner.  Shanghai was once seven year-old Ronald Morris’ playground, but during the war years hunger was his constant companion. For Pamela Masters, a brash British teenager, months of imprisonment brought her within seconds of taking her own life. The war meant it would be years before Mary Taylor Previte would see her parents again.

What happens when the only world you ever knew is gone, and “home” is a place you’ve never seen?

As always, watching this documentary is FREE courtesy of Snag Films.   This video can be viewed worldwide and we hope you’ll share it…

News & Notes from Around the World: Memorial Day Edition

Sather Air Base is a memorial itself, named for Scott Sather who was the first Airman to be killed in action in OIF. The Scott Sather memorial was dedicated last year and this was the first Memorial Day to further honor him and everyone else who has served with the same distinction as Scott Sather.

Baghdad, Iraq – While millions of Americans take a day of from work to reflect and enjoy each others company, the aerial port of Baghdad and the USO, that serves the 1000 passengers a day, were working at full speed. “Mission Critical” is when important work takes priority above all else, but the meaning of this day is too important to over look.

USO Duty Manager, Courtney Haueter, lead the National Moment of Remembrance and the entire aerial port staff, passengers and visitors paused for a full minute at 3:00pm local time. USO customers ceased all calls, IMs, games and movies while the military crew of Sather Air Base paused operations during that time.

Commanding Officer of the 447th, Col Bruce Taylor USAF, led the Memorial Day ceremony and spoke of heroes gone and not forgotten.  Honor Guard for both the Air Force and Army took part in the remembrance and did outstanding work in saluting their brothers in arms.

An essay by Theater of War‘s Bryan Doerries in today’s Washington Post – After a reading of Sophocles’ “Ajax” and “Philoctetes” for members of the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Stewart, Ga., a soldier approached me. His hands were trembling and he was fighting back tears.

“For a while now, I have been separated from my unit, the guys I fought alongside downrange. Being separated from your unit is like being stripped of your humanity. I think Sophocles wrote these plays to bring soldiers together to restore their humanity.” He leaned closer, his eyes locking with mine. “Without our humanity, none of this means anything.”

I held the soldier’s gaze and shook his hand, thanking him for his comment, which I promised to share with military audiences at performances throughout the United States…

Watching the soldier at Fort Stewart exit the auditorium last month, it suddenly seemed un-coincidental to me that the ancient plays that we were performing for the U.S. military during the ninth year of the war in Afghanistan and so many years into Iraq depicted what happened to the Greek armed forces during the ninth year of the Trojan War. Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, the visionary leader who made our project possible, has said repeatedly of today’s armed forces: “Never has so great a burden been placed upon the shoulders of so few on behalf of so many for so long.”

We are not a nation at war. We are a nation with a volunteer army at war… Click here to read the full essay.

From Snag Film’s Rick Allen – “For 99% of Americans, Memorial Day is a chance to circle a barbeque grill; for us, it’s about gathering together in a cemetery.” Probably nothing captures the enormous gulf between how veterans and civilians treat Monday’s national holiday than that quick but pointed reminder I heard Wednesday from Paul Rieckhoff.  Paul is the charismatic founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and author of the acclaimed book Chasing Ghosts, about his tour of duty in Iraq.  As most of us celebrate the “official” start of summer this weekend, hopefully the words of Paul Rieckhoff, or the roar of Rolling Thunder, or the quiet comfort that the USO brings every day to service families, will break through our routine.

My generation was the first beneficiary of our modern volunteer armed service, in the sense that no longer would all able-bodied men be expected to spend time in uniform.  The ability to outsource our service keeps us personally untouched by combat, but raises societal issues and comes with countervailing personal trade-offs. Sebastian Junger’s new book War and his companion film Restrepo vividly detail the depth of camaraderie that come from absolute commitment to the safety of your fellow squad members.  Those of us around our family barbeques can instinctively appreciate how common mortal danger binds brothers and sisters-in-arms; our challenge now is to find better ways to hold our veterans close to the whole community and to demonstrate our appreciation for what they’ve given for our freedoms.

IAVA joins many other governmental and non-profit organizations in working on the full range of issues facing today’s returning warriors. At a time when our economy struggles to produce new jobs, an estimated 30% of veterans of our current conflicts are out of work.  The Veterans Administration is more invigorated under Secretary Shinseki than it has been in many decades – but a huge number of vets, particularly the young ones, will never willingly walk into a VA hospital or ask for government help, despite what may be significant need.

Many organizations are hard at work to bridge these gaps. The USO assists service members and their families around the world. IAVA has created an incredible online community of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan operations, and advocates for federal action on jobs, health, education and other pressing vet issues. There are various levels of government that deliver services as well as recreational opportunities to active duty warriors and their families, and veterans.  But more is needed, from our society collectively and each of us individually.

Leon Cooper will be on CNN Monday morning. Leon is 90, a WWII vet living in Los Angeles and working with a consistency and energy of someone in his 20s. That’s how old he was at Tarawa, one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history. Leon returned to that atoll when he learned that the beach that held the bones of his fallen comrades was now a garbage dump for islanders without arable land for alternatives.  His final campaign is captured in the film Return to Tarawa, which you can watch here.  Thanks to Leon’s indomitability, the power of the film, and the tools of SnagFilms, Congress last year directed the Department of Defense to identify the remains on Red Beach and bring them home.  In two months, the DOD teams will wing west to begin a task of memory and responsibility we have deferred for nearly 7 decades.

Kyle Maynard spends significant time working with wounded warriors.  An exceptional athlete honored with an ESPY and a shelf of other awards, best-selling author and motivational speaker, Kyle was born without complete limbs.  His motto, “No Excuses”, completely encapsulates how he lives his life. (A new film about Kyle will air on ESPN in November and you can learn more here.) Not long ago, I spent an afternoon at Ft. Myer, Virginia, with Kyle and a group of Iraq and Afghanistan vets with serious physical injuries resulting from their service.  We gathered around an exercise mat, and Kyle put the six men and one woman through a daunting workout – but from my fly-on-the-wall vantage point, the greatest outcome of the day came from the conversation among the participants.  The service members joining Kyle knew he only had a civilian’s perspective … but they also knew that his physical challenges had been life-long. They had in common much more than what they lacked; each was working every minute to turn loss into motivation, not cause for withdrawal.

We too need to make an effort, each in our own way. Memorial Day provides many such opportunities.  At the very least, it provides the chance for reflection and appreciation. Our founder, Ted Leonsis, coined the term “filmanthropy” to combine the communication power of film with the interactivity of the web, and allow an engaged audience new ways to start a conversation or take an action. We’ve pulled 11 films together from different conflicts and perspectives for Memorial Day – you can watch them from the widget below, or at http://bit.ly/SnagMemorialDay .  Enjoy them alone or with others. And make your Memorial Day into something to remember.

This Week’s Snag Film – Arlington: Field of Honor

Tour one of America's most sacred places and explore its hallowed history in this powerful portrait

Snag Films and National Geographic presents a portrait of one of America’s most sacred places. Once little more than a potter’s field, Arlington National Cemetery has become a national shrine and treasury of American history. Now, discover how this revered site came to be, and how it serves as the final resting place for both the famous and obscure, from John F. Kennedy to the Unknown Soldier. Through rare archival footage and captivating, true-life accounts, experience the moving stories of heroes and heroines and witness the daily activities and official rituals of the dedicated staff who strive to honor those who are laid to rest here. From fallen soldiers and daring explorers to political leaders and other honored Americans, the hallowed history of Arlington reveals a powerful portrait of this iconic and venerated landmark.

(Note: this documentary is available for viewing only in the US)

This Week’s Snag Film: National Geographic’s Shark Encounters

The ultra-rare, deepwater "Megamouth" shark was captured on film for the first time ever in National Geographic's Shark Encounters. This, however, is a whale shark.

Plunge into the ocean with renowned filmmaker and shark expert Michael deGruy as he takes you to the underwater realm of sharks for this week’s USO Theater offering from Snag Films.  Remember: Snag Films are always free and you can share them with friends and family  - no matter where they are around the world!  We’re continuing to bring you the best in documentary film making and if YOU have films you’d like to see, let us know in the comments section.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll plunge into the ocean depths with renowned filmmaker and shark expert Michael deGruy as he takes you to the underwater realm of sharks! You’ll swim terrifyingly close to see these efficient predators in action, and watch in fear as deGruy re-enacts a shark attack that cost him part of an arm fourteen years earlier. You’ll also discover the incredible physical and behavioral diversity of the shark family, from the 7-inch dwarf dog shark to the over 50-foot whale shark. Through spectacular animation, enter a shark’s body to learn how it hones in on its prey using its unique sense of electro-reception. And join in the discovery of a gigantic deepwater species known as “Megamouth,” with the first ever close-up footage.


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