- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 10, 2009

This year the GI Film Festival “crossed a threshold,” president and co-founder Brandon Millett told The Washington Times.

The D.C.-based nonprofit is showcasing select films at several venues across the nation. The Best of the GI Film Festival Road Show will take place Sept. 26 at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Actor Gary Sinise will co-host the event. This is the first year the festival has expanded its scope beyond the annual multiday event held in the nation’s capital.

The GI Film Festival was founded in 2007 by Mr. Millett and his wife, Laura, an Army Reserve major and West Point graduate, to highlight the successes and sacrifices of the armed forces. The festival showcases films from both domestic and international filmmakers of all levels of experience. The major criteria for the films selected is that they depict “the courage and selflessness of our fighting men and women and the value of their work,” the festival’s Web site says.

The Milletts said they were proud of the progress the festival has made over the years. “We became the go-to film festival for military films,” Mr. Millett said. The event has succeeded in “penetrating a consciousness” of the D.C. military community.

The organizers began to receive submissions from a wide variety of pro-military filmmakers as a result of word-of-mouth references.

“We have received very positive feedback from filmmakers,” Maj. Millett said regarding the festival, which took place in the District May 12 through 17. “We are recognized as a filmmaker-friendly festival.”

She explained that filmmakers have expressed their enthusiasm at being able to interact with one another during panel discussions and the social gatherings following the films.

Both Mr. and Maj. Millett have full-time jobs. Much of their time also is occupied raising their toddler. Their major challenge is to raise funds to take the festival to more areas across the nation.

They also said that they need more help with public relations. The organization relies mostly on volunteers, whose time is limited. “So many individuals are impacted by the festival. They approach us and say they have been changed by some of the films they see,” Mr. Millett said. “We want more people to have this experience.”

“We want to bring the festival to more bases,” Maj. Millett said. She recounted that one Vietnam veteran told her that he was able to cry for the first time in 30 years after he viewed a film at the festival.

“This is not just a fun event,” Maj. Millett said. “We don’t just show films and throw a party. This is a form of public education. We are striving to bring about a long-term cultural shift in changing the mind-set of the American people about who the men and women of the armed force are.”

“We have lofty goals,” Mr. Millett said. “The GI Film Festival is a means of expressing support and gratitude for the troops. What we do impacts the American GI. As we foster a positive image for our troops, the military will have more support. This increases the morale of our troops and citizens.”

Grace Vuoto is the editor of Base News, a citizen journalism project of The Washington Times for the military community.



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