Having given a good think to Veteran’s Day and the film Hearts and Minds, I came across two other veteran-related films, one old and one new, that I think are worth tracking down.

First, the new: Dan Cogan, from Impact Partners, whom I interviewed several weeks ago, tells me that Impact’s How to Fold a Flag, a film that’s on the festival circuit at the moment, is a powerful depiction of Iraq War veterans — and that the filmmakers were very much inspired by Hearts and Minds. In this new film, directors Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein, who made Gunner Palace, catch up with a subject of their earlier film, along with three other vets. (How to Fold a Flag was recently at the Toronto International Film Festival. See the film’s description from the TIFF website.)

Still from How to Fold a Flag

Still from How to Fold a Flag by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein.


And then there’s the old: I read about a doc called Pietro, which was shot during a U.S. assault on the town of San Pietro in WW II. Directed by John Huston, it was considered to be too brutal and defeatist to show to the public at the time, so its release was held up. But today, you can actually see the film in parts on YouTube.

I’d recommend if for several reasons. For one, it’s easy for many of us younger folk (I’m generously counting everyone born after 1945 in that bunch) to forget the brutality of WWII, or at least forget its reality by having images of Saving Private Ryan clog up our brains. Films like Hearts and Minds have seared the image of disturbed American soldiers in our minds, but to see Americans from that earlier war looking scared and dying is quite striking. Another reason to see the film is simply to marvel at the way Huston shot the footage — he’s the guy who made The Misfits, The Red Badge of Courage and The Maltese Falcon, among so many others. I’d like to look into how his nonfiction filmmaking impacted the way he shot features. I’ll try to get deeper into that (for Huston and for other filmmakers) in a future post.

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Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He is a former Premiere magazine senior editor, who graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom's freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter and other publications. He has written several Kindle Singles, including the bestselling Kindle Singles Interview: Ken Burns. Tom's current list of favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi by Godfrey Reggio; 2. Hoop Dreams by Steve James; 3.Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley; 4.Crumb by Terry Zwigoff; 5. Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen