The Veterans Film Festival 2018. Event Cinemas Manuka. November 1 to 3. veteransfilmfestival.com.
The fourth Veterans Film Festival has a special significance, says festival director Tom Papas, since it occurs on the centenary of the Armistice ending World War I.
To mark this, there will be a component in the festival of films about the First World War.
And, Papas says, half the films in the festival will have a woman in a major role as writer, director, producer or lead actor.
The Veterans Film Festival aims to bring people together to discover stories about veterans, first responders, and everyone else who experiences warfare and their families.
Apart from the opening night, a short film will precede each feature screening. The closing-night film will be accompanied by Wingman, directed by Canberra-born Benoit McCullough. It's about a couple who make a cardboard plane for their nephew but on the test flight find themselves fighting a squadron of enemies.
Papas says, "It's set in March, 1918, towards the end of World War I. It looks at the life of World War I soldiers who have been sent to the Front in France."
The cast includes Sam Claflin (the Hunger Games series, Me Before You), Paul Bettany (A Beautiful Mind), Toby Jones(Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Asa Butterfield (Hugo).
It's set in a dugout in Aisne in 1918, where a group of British officers awaits a German offensive. They are joined by a new, young officer (Butterfield). He has come to serve under Captain Stanhope (Clafin), his former school monitor and his sister's sweetheart, who is mentally disintegrating under the strain.
Another Australian premiere, and a contemporary story, is the documentary TransMilitary (PG, American), screening on November 2 at 6pm.
"It chronicles the lives of veterans who have transitioned and how they have come out," Papas says.
"It's one of the most remarkable documentaries I have seen."
The film focuses on four people - Senior Airman Logan Ireland, Corporal Laila Villanueva, Captain Jennifer Peace and First Lieutenant El Cook - who came out as transgender to officials in the Pentagon hoping of attaining the equal right to serve their country. The ban was lifted in 2016, but President Donald Trump has been trying to reinstate it.
"They want to get recognised as veterans who don't have to hide who they are."
On November 3 are two documentaries about the Second World War. At 11am, writer/director Patrick Lindsay's Kokoda, The Spirit Lives ( PG, Australian), made for the History Channel, tells some of the stories of the Australian soldiers who fought against the Japanese on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea during World War II and revisits the track now. Papas says it uses a lot of contemporary technology to bring the story to life.
At 2pm is the Canberra premiere of Spitfire (PG, British). Narrated by Charles Dance (Game of Thrones, The Imitation Game), it is screening in the 70th anniversary year of the war-changing fighter plane.
"It played an important role in the history of World War II."
Along with the Hurricane, the Spitfire was used by the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain in 1940 during the German mass bombing campaign known as the Blitz. The RAF emerged victorious in the fight against the Luftwaffe and stopped a German invasion of Britain.
The film features present-day aerial photography as well as digitally remastered footage from the war and the story is told through the words of several surviving combat veterans.
"We want to bring people to discover these amazing stories."
Before the screening at 1.30pm a special guest historian will speak and his first book will be launched.
"Adam Lunney wrote the book Ready to Strike: The Spitfires and Australians of 453 (RAAF) Squadron over Normandy," Papas says.
It tells the story of the only Australian squadron to operate from airfields built immediately behind the front lines of the Normandy battlefield after the landings in France of June 1944.
Also on November 3, at 2pm (arrive by 1.45) is a free screening of two episodes from the Foxtel series Fighting Season. This Australian series stars Jay Ryan (Beauty and the Beast), Ewen Leslie (Top of the Lake), Kate Mulvany (The Great Gatsby), among many others and is directed by Kate Woods (Looking for Alibrandi). This six-part drama is about a platoon of soldiers who from Afghanistan after a controversial mission that was marred by mistakes and cover-ups.
After the screening will be a Q&A; session with actors George Pullar and Julian Maroun along with producer Kylie du Fresne and writer Blake Asyhford (Barracuda).
Also on November 3 at 4pm is the Australian premiere of the America animated film 2018 Sgt Stubby: An Unlikely Hero ( PG). It's based on a true story.
A young American army private, Robert Conroy (voiced by Logan Lerman) adopts a stray, stump-tailed terrier he names Stubby. He smuggles the dog to France during World War I and Stumpy becomes a mascot for Conroy's unit. He also proves his worth, saving the soldiers from mustard gas attacks and finding wounded men, among other brave deeds.
Gérard Depardieu voices a French soldier who befriends Conroy and Stumpy and the film is narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, whose great-grandfather, H.H. Asquith, was prime minister of Britain from 1908 to 1916.
The festival's closing gala screening on November 3 at 6pm is the Australian premiere of the Russian film Anna's War (M), a story of survival set during World War II.
In Nazi-occupied Ukraine in 1941, six-year-old Anna is the only one who lives when her family are shot. She hides in a chimney, peering out through a chink, and comes out at night to forage for food and water. But how long can she survive?
Papas says, "The Veterans Film Festival is a not-for-profit arts organisation, whose aim is to raise awareness and contribute to our understanding of those who have been part of international conflict."
He adds, "We encourage talent and assist in the development of independent film, veterans who make films, filmmakers and the film related arts community."
This is done in part through the Red Poppy Awards for films in the festival, which take place on the closing night- see the festival website for details of how to submit a film for next year.
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