In a series of films and documentaries ranging from U.S. soldiers readjusting to civilian life to the journey of veterans receiving care from Veterans Affairs, the Gateway Film Center is partnering with the Columbus Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Art Initiative to host its first-ever Columbus Veterans Film Festival from Saturday to Sunday.
The Veterans Art Initiative is a group that offers visual arts, theater, dance and music programs — such as the film festival — to veterans and their families for free. The goal is to not only engage them in the arts, but also encourage veterans to come visit the VA for help, Heather Seymour, creative arts coordinator at the Columbus VA, said.
“Nationally, we know that 14 out of the 20 veterans that die per day by suicide [have] not engaged in the VA in the past year,” she said.
Scott Vezdos, the film center’s director of communications, said the film festival will present four different films — “Thank You For Your Service,” “The Veterans Project,” “Serve Like a Girl” and “Leave No Trace” — as well as art created by veterans being shown in the film center.
“Thank You For Your Service,” starring Miles Teller, tells the story of a group of soldiers returning from Iraq, and their struggles readapting to civilian life. “The Veterans Project,” a documentary that shows the journey veterans take from injury to care in the VA, will also show Saturday. Starting Sunday is “Serve Like a Girl,” a documentary looking at American women transitioning from active duty to civilian life; and finally, “Leave No Trace,” a movie about an Iraq War vet with PTSD living with his daughter in a public park, will close out the film festival.
“We’re really excited to be able to be bringing up veterans focused films up to the screen,” Vezdos said.
Not only will there be film screenings, but also a live, one-man show Saturday night performed by Kevin McClatchy, associate professor in the Department of Theatre at Ohio State, titled “Scrap Heap.”
McClatchy said the show is based on his friend’s experiences in various sections in the military, such as special forces, diplomatic security services and the inspector general’s bureau in Southern California.
“It’s essentially a sort of whiplash tour of his experience of service and then coming back to reintegrate into society,” McClatchy said. “It’s a piece that resonates with veterans and giving everybody an opportunity to communalize this one person’s experience.”
Seymour said the idea for the festival came when the Veterans Art Initiative held an art exhibition at the Columbus Metropolitan Library in February. There, she met Alex Davis, director of development at the film center, who pitched her the idea of a veteran-focused film festival as a collaboration between the Columbus VA and the film center.
“I was fresh into this new job as the creative arts coordinator, and I was like ‘Oh my god, this sounds amazing,” Seymour said. “So, I brought it to the leadership and they said ‘yeah, try to develop it.’”
Seymour said the VA arts programs do not use tax dollars, but rather donations.
“We have community partners coming in, running workshops, we have people donating from different art councils from all around the state donating materials,” she said. “It really is this kind of nice segue between community and engagement and social activism.”
Seymour said she wants not only veterans to attend the film festival, but also civilians, as she hopes it can paint a picture of how people can support veterans and become more inclusive in the community.
“If there’s conversations that happen out the door or even a week later that engage some kind of meaningful dialogue between veterans and civilians, that’s all we can hope for,” Seymour said.
The film festival is free but requires RSVP. Those who wish to attend can register here or via the VA Events Phone Line at 614-388-7787.