The 31st annual Edmonton International Film Festival (EIFF) launches today and will have Edmonton buzzing with big screen productions for nine days and nine nights. This year, the event features 140 films from 32 different countries around the world. In 2016, the EIFF was designated as an “Oscar qualifying” film festival by the the Academy of Motion Picture and Sciences, meaning juried winners in the EIFF’s Best Short Film (Live Action) and Best Short Film (Animation) categories can advance in the OSCAR nomination process.
Here’s some background on one of the 140 films featured at this year’s festival, this one directed by Edmonton-based filmmaker Aaron Kurmey of Rambunxious Entertainment.
Thousand Yard Stare
During World War II, after suffering a crushing defeat at the hands of the Germans during the Battle of Kasserine Pass, an American soldier, Roland Rothach, finds himself lost and alone in the deserts of North Africa, where he’s soon captured and taken prisoner by a pair of German pilots.
After the war, Roland returns home where he finds reintegrating with family life increasingly difficult as he suffers from flashbacks and hallucinations brought on by post-traumatic stress disorder. When his wife, Barbara, leaves with their son, Roland is left alone to face, and attempt to overcome, the pain and misery of the memories he’s tried so hard to bury.
Returning home after fighting in Africa during World War II, a soldier with PTSD finds reintegrating with family life increasingly difficult as he relives the battle of Kasserine Pass.
About the Director:
Aaron Kurmey is an award winning filmmaker from Edmonton, Alberta. Aaron has been making movies since he was in grade school, first using borrowed VHS cameras, and editing the movies using a pair of VCRs. He started production on his first feature film, HOODOO VOODOO when he was only 18 years old, using his university scholarships and savings to fund the movie. It was the best film school he could ever dream of. After his first feature, he experimented with several short films, producing two award winners: the Korean action movie inspired HIGH SCHOOL BRAWL, and military sci-fi short, THE OVERTURE. He then produced his second feature film, an ultra low budget sci-fi, alien invasion movie, BATTLE EARTH.
Following a brief tour on the festival circuit, where BATTLE EARTH won a handful of awards, and international distribution, Aaron and his partners at his production company, Rambunxious Entertainment got to work on their third and most ambitious feature film yet, THOUSAND YARD STARE, a World War II movie set in North Africa about post-traumatic stress disorder.
While researching ideas for the script, two things happened that changed everything. One, I saw a statistic that more veterans were dying from suicide every year than had died in the entirety of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. And two, we met a veteran of the Afghanistan war who was open to sharing his experiences suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with us. We realized we had the opportunity to do something important. To show that just because soldiers come home doesn’t mean their war is over.
The biggest challenge was trying to balance our protagonist, Roland’s experiences during the war with the scenes of him at home after the war. The flashbacks and nightmares that many survivors have are as real and vivid to them as if they were right back in it. We tried to capture that by meshing distinct points in Roland’s life together, weaving back and forth through them, and finally bringing them all to a head at the end of the movie. The goal was to make the audience feel like they were being pulled through the painful memories the same way Roland was. It was also crucial that we not only show the toll post-traumatic stress disorder takes on the survivors, but their friends, families, and loved ones, as well.
After watching the movie you may not agree with, or even understand why everyone did what they did, but we hope that you can empathize with the decisions they made. Even today we still only understand the faintest edges of the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, but maybe, even if only in a very small way, this movie will help change that.
Screens Saturday, October 7 at 2pm at Landmark Cinemas 9 City Centre, 10200 102 Ave NW , Edmonton,