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The Monthly Column on Film and Media Arts
for the New England Entertainment Digest

By George T. Marshall, RIIFF Executive Director/CEO


(April 2006) When I was child, I was very fortunate to have been able to travel around the globe. My father, you see, was in the Navy and he was stationed in a number of exotic locales. The family traveled with him. As a matter of fact, we spent four and a half years in Japan prior to his retirement and those memories are still strong for me today as though I was there last week.

Now I know, it was a while ago. Friends, being less than charitable would say all this happened when dinosaurs ruled the world. In truth, it was more like the late 1950s.

I was recently sent a documentary film to review that brought back many memories associated with my chilhood. It’s called “BRATS: Our Journey Home.” The film is about American military “brats” who share intimate memories about their strange, but interesting childhoods - growing up on military bases around the world, then struggling to fit into an America with which they have little in common.

Strongly and creatively directed by Donna Musil, the film hit home.

“BRATS: Our Journey Home” is a seven-year work of passion and independent filmmaker Musil’s directorial debut. A former lawyer and daughter of an Army JAG officer, Donna’s writing credits include “Ananse,” a children’s animated film in development in London/Ghana; Rebuilding America’s Communities, the PBS/Carter Center documentary about inner-city poverty; and “To Kingdom Come,” a feature drama about union-busting labor lawyers featured in NY Women in Film & Television’s Screenplay Reading Series representing "some of the best developing women screenwriters."

I’ve been on the Japan Brats website (http://japanbrats.blogspot.com/) repeatedly during the past year after hearing from someone I had known while a child on the Yokosuka Naval Base. Musil’s film found in me a receptive and appreciative audience. Who knew that others shared my experiences or even cared. Musil’s film reminded me what it had been like growing up in so many different communities; not quite fitting in with the locals and never in one place long enough to form solid friendships.


Brats are children of military personnel.

How Many Brats Are There? The truth is, nobody knows. In a country obsessed with polls and statistics, neither the Department of Defense (DoD) nor anyone else has kept a running count of the number of children raised in the U.S. military. And you can’t tell just by looking. They’re every race, every age, every religion. They’re everywhere. They’re your spouses, your parents, your grandchildren, your co-workers, and your neighbors.

The DoD school system estimates it has educated around 4 million brats overseas since 1946. But that’s only 20-30% of the total brat population, so you’re looking at a total of at least 12-20 million brats. That’s not counting the children of National Guard men and women… embassy and foreign service personnel… DoD civilian employees… missionary families… and mobile corporate families – all of who share more in common with military brats than with their fellow citizens.

Because brats are not easily identifiable, marketing to this “lost American tribe” (as author Pat Conroy calls them), is a challenge, but not impossible, particularly in the United States. Statistics indicate almost 60% of all military brats live in 10 states: Texas, California, Florida, Virginia, Georgia, Colorado, North Carolina, Maryland, Arizona, and Washington.

The film is narrated by Kris Kristofferson, himself an Air Force Brat. Kristofferson as a (Singer/Songwriter is known for BROKEN FREEDOM SONG, MOMENT OF FOREVER, "Me and Bobby McGee," THE HIGHWAYMEN; and as an Actor for LONE STAR, A SOLDIER'S DAUGHTER NEVER CRIES, HEAVEN'S GATE, A STAR IS BORN.

“BRATS: Our Journey Home” features Interviews with: General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Army Brat, Retired; Mary Edwards Wertsch, Army Brat, Author, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress; Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, Psychotherapist, Author, The Narcissistic Family; Morten Ender, Sociology Professor, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, Author, Military Brats and Other Global Nomads: Growing Up in Organization Families; George H. Junne, Army Brat, Chair, Department of Africana Studies, University of Northern Colorado, Blacks in the American West and Beyond—America, Canada, and Mexico.

(No, I wasn’t interviewed.)

When asked why she developed the film, director Donna Musil told me:

“The idea for a non-fiction film about military children took root back in 1998. I was a labor-lawyer-turned-struggling-writer feeling a bit out of sorts and “different” from my fellow Americans, but didn’t know why. Then one day I discovered I was not alone. There are literally millions of us military “brats” scattered around the world and more are being born every day. We are raised in a separate and distinct culture that affects us deeply in both positive and negative ways.

“Making this connection to my culture gave me a sense of belonging I had never experienced, which in turn gave me the strength to focus less on “why I was the way I was” and more on how I could use the positive aspects of my cultural inheritance to make the world a better place. This was indeed revelatory and empowering to a little girl who had moved twelve times on three continents, attended three high schools, and lost a father to cancer by the time she was sixteen years old.”

I could certainly relate to what she had felt.

Being a child in a military family not only gives you a different perspective on the world around you, but also can be an isolating experience.

Making the film was an experience in itself. According to Ms. Musil:

“It has been one roller-coaster of a ride. Seven years later, we have a film about a group of children whose only “homes” are really each other. We actually seem to have more in common with the military children and “global nomads” of other countries than with our fellow citizens. And wouldn’t that be ironic and yet oddly hopeful, that the children of soldiers who fought each other end up belonging to an almost borderless nation of people?”

What of her goals for the film?

“And that, I suppose, is my hope and my vision – that this little film might be a small spark in a global fire of self-awareness and belonging – that from the ashes of war might rise a nation of children committed to peace. If we can put a man on the moon... if we can dissect the human genome into its infinitesimal parts... surely we can find a way to live peacefully with our differences. It's a lofty goal, to be certain, but then again, we military brats are raised on lofty goals.


For more information about this title, contact:
Brats Without Borders, Inc.
P.O. Box 3096
Eatonton, GA 31024
Phone: 404.358.2525
Email: info@bratsourjourneyhome.com

Another documentary I was sent that touched a strong chord was the locally produced “Lemonade Stories: by Mary Mazzio.

“Lemonade Stories,” is an amazing new film about extraordinary entrepreneurs and their mothers. It blew me away with its focus and straightforward storytelling. If ever there was an accessible documentary, this was it. The story is universal and who can’t relate to the impact on their life by a mother?

This film, produced in collaboration with Babson College and Scott Timmins, focuses on how mothers have contributed to the entrepreneurial spirit of their sons and daughters, as well as the influence these mothers have had on their children in terms of instilling a responsibility to give back to the community. The film, aired nationwide on CNNfn and the debut of the film's panel discussion aired nationwide on C-SPAN.

Garnering a full cover page story in USA Today, complete with pictures and streaming video on USA Today.com's home page, “Lemonade Stories” was also featured in cover story articles in The Christian Science Monitor and Forbes.com, both of which stories were syndicated around the world, including a feature story on ABC News.com's home page, as well as NPR, CNN Headline News, ESPN, The Boston Globe, Fast Company, Bloomberg Radio, The Providence Journal, Yahoo Business, MSN Business, among others.

The film has been screened and used for international consulting firms, unemployment training centers, state business conferences, high schools (being incorporated into high school economics curriculum in school districts), entrepreneurship symposiums, business schools and colleges in the US, Canada, Japan, the UK, China, Mexico, Brazil, and France.

The individuals featured in this film include:

• Richard Branson (The Virgin Group) and his mother, Eve Branson (herself an entrepreneur, who also served in WWII)


• Russell Simmons (Def Jam/Phat Fashions), his brother Reverend Run (a/k/a Run of the hip-hop pioneers, Run-DMC), and his brother Danny Simmons (co-founder, Def Poetry Jam)


• Arthur Blank (The Home Depot) and his mother, Molly Blank (who took over the family business after the death of her husband and built it into a multi-million dollar operation)


• Kay Koplovitz (USA Network) and her mother, Jane Smith (a 90 year old who loves Brett Favre and is known to yell at her favorite players during playoff season)


• Tom Scott (Nantucket Nectars), his mother Jane, his grandmother Dorothy (featured in Nantucket Nectars' radio spots), and his wife, Emily Woods Scott (founder of JCrew)


• Billy Starr (Pan-Mass Challenge), who founded the world’s largest bike-a-thon, raising over $100,000,000 for cancer research in memory of his mother, Betty Starr.


• Kelly Reinhart (TPak International), an 11 year old entrepreneur who invented a thigh pack and obtained a million dollar contract with the US Army.


Not only was Mary Mazzio the film’s Director, but she was also the Screenwriter, Producer, and Executive Producer. Now that’s a hyphenate!

Ms. Mazzio, an award-winning director, former Olympian, and entrepreneur, is Founder and CEO of 50 Eggs, Inc., an independent film production company in Massahusetts. Mary wrote, directed and produced the highly-acclaimed films, “Lemonade Stories,” “Apple Pie” and “A Hero for Daisy.”
The latter film, “A Hero for Daisy” was hailed by The New York Times as a “landmark film” and “fantastic” by Sports Illustrated; “remarkable” by NPR; aired nationwide on ESPN, Oxygen, WGBH, and WTSN-Canada; and is in thousands of classrooms across the country.

“Apple Pie” aired nationwide on ESPN to critical acclaim, and was called “warm and illuminating – told with deftness and emotion… priceless” by The New York Times; “heartwarming” by Los Angeles Times; “fantastic”- NPR, and “excellent: - CNN.

Mary, a former Olympic rower (1992-Rowing) and member of several US rowing teams, is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and Georgetown Law School. A recipient of several awards including the 2001 Women's Sports Foundation Journalism Award, a Gracie Award, a Henry Luce Foundation Fellowship (to Korea); the Mary Lyon Award (from Mount Holyoke College); a Rotary Foundation Graduate Fellowship (to France).

I heartily recommend this film and believe it is a great teaching tool.

For more information, please contact
50 Eggs Films
231 Forest Street, Babson Park, MA 02457


About the Author:
George T. Marshall is the Producing Director of the Rhode Island-based Flickers Arts Collaborative, the creators of the annual Rhode Island International Film Festival for which he also serves as Executive Director. He teaches film and communications at Rhode Island College and speech communications and documentary film at Roger Williams University. He is a director, writer, producer of commercials and industrials for numerous business clients in the region and is currently completing the multi-media components for a museum exhibit saluting American veterans in Woonsocket, RI. He can be reached at <info@film-festival.org>