The couple became directors of the GI Film Festival, now in its sixth year. The 2012 festival begins Monday and runs through Sunday. Most of the screenings will be at the Navy Memorial Auditorium in downtown Washington. Special events are scheduled for nearby locations, including the Newseum and the Canadian Embassy.
Millett estimates that “95 percent of the films we screen are independent films, non-studio films. Every now and again, we’ll screen a Hollywood classic or even a new film.” Many entries are national or world premieres.
This year’s most mainstream attraction is Thursday’s preview of “Battleship,” the special-effects/heavy-action flick that will open commercially the next day. Only festival-goers with $250 VIP passes can buy their way into the E Street Cinema screening. The rest of the seats are reserved for convalescing combat veterans, who will attend for free.
“What we like to do for the wounded warriors is show them a fun action film,” Millett says, “as opposed to a more heavy documentary or something of that nature.”
There are plenty of documentaries in the lineup, including Monday night’s “Chosin.” The acclaimed 2010 movie about a brutal Korean War campaign, made by Iraq war veterans, will be shown at a black-tie dinner to honor H. Ross Perot Sr. That event is also pricey, with individual tickets ranging from $250 to $1,500. Somewhat cheaper is Saturday’s $55 salute to military spouses, with cast members from Lifetime’s “Army Wives.”
Hollywood stars are frequent guests at the GI Film Festival. This year, Joe Mantegna will receive the “GI Spirit” award, which Millett says is “for entertainers who support the troops with their philanthropic work.”
Previous festival attendees include Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kelsey Grammer and James Franco. A block of international short films, to be shown Wednesday at the Canadian Embassy, will be hosted by Pat Sajak.
One actor who has attended multiple festivals is Gary Sinise, who has been involved in veterans’ issues since playing a legless veteran in “Forrest Gump.” His Gary Sinise Foundation is one of this year’s sponsors. Among the others are USAA, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Army National Guard, Triwest Healthcare Alliance, the American Legion and Military.com.
Although the film festival’s supporters trend to the right, Millett says the military-movie showcase has no ideology. “We don’t take political positions on any particular conflict or public-policy issue. Really, we only have one political criterion, and that’s that the films that we screen portray GIs with the respect that we feel they’ve earned and that they deserve.