Posted by Alex Glass
Our speaker at the June 7 Rotary meeting was Frederick Marx, an internationally acclaimed Oscar- and Emmy- nominated director and writer with 40 years in the film business. He was named a Chicago Tribune Artist of the Year for 1994, a 1995 Guggenheim fellow, and the recipient of the Robert F Kennedy Special Achievement Award. His film, Hoop Dreams, played in hundreds of theaters nationwide after winning the audience award at the Sundance film Festival, and was the first documentary ever chosen to close the New York film Festival. It was on over 100 “10 best” lists nationwide, and was named best film of the year by critics Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel, Gene Shalit, and Ken Turran, and by the Chicago Film Critics Association. Ebert also named it “best film of the decade.” It is one of the highest grossing non-musical documentaries in US history. Three of Marx’s films have premiered at the New York film Festival.
 
Marx's latest project is a one-hour film for television entitled “ Veterans Journey Home.” This is the story of the 1.7 million returning US veterans and what it takes for them to transition back to civilian life successfully. Many veterans have great challenges returning to civilian life, evidenced by statistics of alcoholism, drug dependency, homelessness, unemployment, and suicide among this group. Whether officially diagnosed with PTSD or not, most vets suffer the psychic scars of “moral injury” and carry the battle within long after the bullets stop flying. How might they be “re-civilianized” through training that is as effective as that which first turned them into soldiers? And what might that do for the 250,000 now in prisons? The 500,000 who are homeless? The 350,000 who are unemployed? What about for the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day? This film will show how they can be healed and maybe even saved.
 
In preparing this film Marx interviewed several recent returnees from the desert wars, as well as their wives and families. A frequent comment from the wives of returning veterans is that the man who returned was not the man who left. This is not surprising since these veterans were not conditioned for civilian life. There are several organizations that provide some form of training to assist veterans in making the transition to the civilian world. However, there is no systematic program to provide this kind of training to all the returning vets. The purpose of Frederick’s film will be to call attention to the plight of veterans and to illustrate the kinds of training that can be provided to assist them in making the transition.
 
Further information concerning Frederick Marx and his work can be found at www.warriorfilms.org.