Arts / Film helps to heal the wounds of war

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David Villanti, left, director Pattie Collins and actor Graham Gall on the set of "Exit Wounds".
David Villanti, left, director Pattie Collins and actor Graham Gall on the set of “Exit Wounds”.

CANBERRA filmmaker Graham Gall may be a veteran in cinematic matters, but in “Exit Wounds” he’s an actor.

“Exit Wounds”, one of the highlights of this year’s Veteran’s Film Festival, deals with the question of post-traumatic stress disorder in returned servicemen.

Directed and written by Pattie Collins, the film is a stylised “conversation” with former Australian Army medic David Villanti, who served with the UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda but, after seeing unimaginable horrors and working in a morgue without refrigeration, lost his family his friends and his job on returning to Australia.

In a theatrical twist, Collins has Gall playing Villanti, but the real-life character puts in an appearance, too.

“It’s set in a studio,” Gall tells “CityNews”, explaining that the movie makes no attempt to hide the fact that it’s fake.

“It’s like a current affairs video and part of the story is how David became a professional actor… through acting, he manages PTSD.

“It’s a kind of an experimental drama because I play him, but he is also in a studio observing the shoots.

“Exit Wounds”, which Gall also edited, was mostly shot at CIT’s state-of-the-art studios, but at times the film cuts away to footage from Rwanda and then, in a triumphant scene on location in Canberra, his redemption through joining Sydney’s Veterans Motorcycle Club.

“He became a complete mess until he joined the club,” Gall says.

“He’s still in recovery, but he’s good and this is a glimpse into his life – and we’ve become good friends.”

It was Collins’ idea to make the film after hearing Villanti’s remarkable story. It took five years listening to him, but after she had developed the script and asked him to play himself, he broke down, later agreeing to have Gall play him.

The film ends in a triumphal moment involving 50-60 volunteer bikers from the Veterans Motorcycle Club.

“We shot the whole thing at 5am driving along past the War Memorial – beautiful footage,” Gall says.

“The way we’ve edited it we see David riding along with them into the sunrise.”

Members of the Veterans Motorcycle Club ride down Anzac Parade in a scene from "Exit Wounds".
Members of the Veterans Motorcycle Club ride down Anzac Parade in a scene from “Exit Wounds”.

Director stunned by festival response

FESTIVAL director Tom Papas sees Canberra as such a perfect place for such an event that he plans to move here from Sydney.

Set at the Australian War Memorial and now supported by the RSL, the festival is now entering its second year and has attracted films from 13 countries.

Papas is a little stunned at the huge reposes to last year’s debut, but puts it down to the pressing need for an understanding of veteran’s lives and wider discussion about society’s attitude to war.

This year’s festival starts with Canadian-made, Afghan war feature “Hyena Road” but ranges in focus:

  • In “The Ravens”, starring Sarah Snook and Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, we meet a veteran struggling with the aftermath of battle.
  • “Ozone” is a sci-fi film set in a future devastated by global nuclear war.
  • “Red Line” is a quirky Iranian animation comedy where a turtle and a lizard are unwillingly involved in a war between two great powers.

And there’s an Oscars touch. The Red Poppies are probably the most beautiful trophies on the arts circuit. Hand-blown by Canberra glass artist Annette Blair, they will go to best Australian Feature Film, Best International Feature Film, Best Australian Short Film and Best International Short Film.

The 2nd annual Veterans Film Festival, Australian War Memorial, October 13, 14 and 15. “Exit Wounds”, 2.30pm, Saturday, October 15, Australian War Memorial. Bookings to veteransfilmfestival.com

 

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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