Celebrating an Accurate Portrayal of Military & Veteran Life at the 2015 GI Film Festival

As someone with a dodgy digestive system, I was intrigued when I first heard about the GI Film Festival.

 

 

Intrigued, then mildly terrified. 

 

Luckily for us all, however, this festival is military- rather than gastrointestinally-themed, and kicks off today in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Featuring 38 films (including 22 world premieres!), the GIFF positions itself as an "educational organization dedicated to sharing the military experience in and out of the arena of war," and has secured bragging rights as  "the first [festival] in the nation to exclusively celebrate the successes and sacrifices of the service member through the medium of film."

 

 

Launched in 2007, the GIFF has some high-profile supporters, including Dale Dye, a retired Marine captain-turned-actor, author, and Hollywood technical adviser. Dye echoes the widely-held sentiment that mainstream films tend to characterize soldiers and veterans as either "killing machines" or "ticking time bombs" in the grips of PTSD.

 

"It's the old 'if it bleeds, it leads' thing," says Dye, "We look for this, and we develop these false ideas. And I guess it's a hangover from the Vietnam days: Everybody who ever wore a uniform and went to war must be damaged goods." 

 

Just like sensationalized interpretations of mental illness, it's the extreme portrayals of soldiers and veterans that are believed to make the most compelling storylines, but at what cost? If you don't know any members of the military first-hand, you'll be tempted to paint those you meet with an American Sniper brush, even when it couldn't be further from the truth. The GIFF does its part to eliminate these stereotypes by bringing more multidimensional portrayals to the masses that bring the humanity back to soldiers on screen.

 

The GIFF 15 runs through this week, with most screenings at the Angelika Film Center in Fairfax, VA. You can learn more about the festival and get a look at the schedule here.

 

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