SURVIVING HOME – Review By Gadi Elkon

This past weekend the first annual North Texas VETFEST showcased three documentaries.  Directors Jillian & Matthew Moul's documentary, SURVIVING HOME, looks at four generations of U.S. Military veterans by sharing their deeply personal stories.  Matthew took part in a pre-festival interview and also sent a few choice quotes about his experience at the festival.  

Here is my full review of the documentary.

They survived war, yet over the years, U.S. military veterans from four generations must find their own unique bridge of connection in order to survive and thrive back home. Surviving Home Facebook Page

The opening sequence of the documentary looks back at the devastating moments of Pearl Harbor.  Both Jillian and Matthew set out to make a very different documentary but after 8 years they had discovered so many more voices that needed to be heard.  Surviving Home is a documentary that doesn't pass judgment but simply allows the veterans to tell their stories.  Depending on your age or own personal background a specific veteran's tale may stick with you.  From WWII through to our latest conflicts in the Middle East there is a veteran that is showcased.  Whether it's PTSD of a physical trauma, a reaction to the isolation of returning home, or even the harsh reality of trauma from your own military brethren this documentary doesn't shy away.  I found myself amazed at all the different stories we find in the film.  In talking with Matthew Moul he revealed the tremendous impact Vietnam Veteran Claude Anshin Thomas has had on Matt's own life.  I found myself transfixed on the stories of Robert Henline, San Antonio resident, and recent Dallasite Jeff Prutz.  As a Texan, the home-field veterans felt all the more reachable and understandable.  Both men shared many similarities but their stories couldn't be any dissimilar.  Henline's physical disfigurement from his final tour in Iraq completely altered his world.  The film spends a lot of time with the Henline family and Robert's journey is one of the most impactful in the movie.  The levity gained from his sense of humor is strongly impacted by the continued surgeries he has to go through and the tough family issues that have forever changed his marriage.  Overall the documentary gives one clear reality to all the veterans showcased, their humanity is still intact.  They may strive to be better people and still struggle with the horrors of their wartime experience but they are all humans with real wants and needs to live.  Jeff's story revolved around his wanting to give back to his veteran community as he runs an American Legion post in the film.  A place where is his parents met, his grandfather frequented, and Jeff helped keep alive.  Matthew Moul shared an update to Jeff's stories in one of the quotes I requested from him.

"By far, the most rewarding part of my visit to Dallas was getting the chance to connect with local military veterans.  One of the veterans in our film, Jeff Prutz, now lives in the Dallas area, and I was able to spend an afternoon with him.  We visited the local American Legion post and talked with some veterans there, including a Vietnam veteran named Roger."  Matthew Moul.

The first annual NTXVetFest was a joint venture by the Veterans Institute for Film and Media and the Dallas Film Society to help fundraise for future events and to help give back to the Veterans showcased in the films shown like Surviving Home.  Matthew went on to explain more of what he loved about the experience, "At NTX VetFest, I was fortunate to be able to talk at length with Bill, Allen, and several other veterans who are about to start their studies at the VIFM, which is the amazing organization that we filmmakers traveled to Dallas to support.  And I had the honor of meeting the veteran of all veterans, Maggy Croxville, whose ingenuity and resolve to find a new way to give a voice to veterans led to the existence of both VIFM and the NTX VetFest."

Surviving Home is a documentary to also holds amazing resolve in giving so many different eras a chance to tell their stories.  Matthew and Jillian's tireless work has allowed viewers the opportunity to connect with so many unique tales.  Tracey Cooper-Harris' military story was extremely tough to understand since her trauma came from her own US Military brothers.  Not only did they forever impact her life with their horrible actions but the consent issues from the Government's take on our LGBTQ soldiers and veterans is also horrific.  The movie allows for Tracey's struggles for equal benefits for her loved one to be a new wrinkle in the film's many points of view.  Surviving Home isn't just one type of documentary and the plethora of stories it highlights allows for any viewer to have some connection.  I urge you to find away to witness the beauty shown in this powerful movie.  

Matthew also was kind enough to share a final thank you to Dallas.

"This was my first time in Dallas, and the thing that impressed me the most was the city's cultural diversity, which seemed to exist in areas, not just in certain parts of town.  It felt like a true representation of America.  Also, all Y'ALL were quite friendly in general!"

Well as much as Matthew sees the diversity in our city as a representation of our Country, so to does his film give us a look into our country's wide diverse military family.  

For more information:

Surviving Home

VIFM

Also here is Matthew's pre-festival interview.

Don't miss out on this documentary.

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