Arts / Veterans’ film festival marches on to victory 

“TransMilitary” looks at four individuals coming out as transgender to top brass officials in the Pentagon… from left Cpl Laila Villanueva, Capt Jennifer Peace and Senior Airman Logan Ireland.

AS we go to press, Canberra glass artist Annette Blair is twisting horticultural probability to create a magnificent “Blue Poppy” trophy for the awards for this year’s Veterans Film Festival.

That award, director of the festival Tom Papas, tells “CityNews”, will go to the film that best promotes hope, recovery and resilience in defence personnel and veterans, and is the result of a new partnership with beyondblue.

The regular Red Poppy Awards will be there for best feature film, best short film and a swag of other trophies for best animation, best female actor, best male actor, best music/sound and best student filmmaker, to be presented at the closing gala on Saturday, November 3.

Competition is an important element in the event, now in its fourth year, and in 2018 there were 275 submissions from Australia and around the world, including the UK, Germany, Iran, the US, France and even Sierra Leone. The short films selected will be interspersed with feature-length films throughout the three-day event.

Moving away from last year’s ADFA location for technical reasons, the 2018 event will be held in the Capitol Theatre, Manuka.

Luckily, he says, Event Cinemas is supporting and assisting him in developing the festival to become a national event, although he is quick to assert: “Canberra will still be our home”.

Another innovation this year has resulted from a partnership with Foxtel that will allow two episodes of the “Fighting Season” to be screened free, with a Q&A following.

“It’s the hundredth anniversary of the armistice that closed World War I, so we wanted to have a good coverage of films from that time then going right through to what might happen in the future,” says Papas.

“Journey’s End”… a group of British officers in a dugout in Aisne during 1918 are led by a mentally disintegrating officer.

The festival opens with the Canberra premiere of “Journey’s End”, where a group of British officers in a dugout in Aisne during 1918 are led by a mentally disintegrating officer. It closes with “Anna’s War,” a Russian film about a six-year-old Jewish girl who hides herself in a disused fireplace of the Nazi commandant’s office and sees the world through cracks – comparisons to Roberto Benigni’s Oscar-winning film “Life Is Beautiful” come to mind.

Into the limelight step a couple of unlikely war heroes. One, an Australian premiere animation starring Logan Lerman, Helena Bonham Carter and the inevitable Gérard Depardieu, is of a stray, stump-tailed terrier, Sergeant Stubby, who is adopted by a young army private, ends up with him in the trenches of France and becomes the most decorated dog of World War I.

A Spitfire over Beachy Head. Photo John Dibbs

The other is about the noble Spitfire, honoured in a feature documentary narrated by “Game of Thrones” star Charles Dance and billed as “an epic, sweeping tale of determination, vision and courage.”

And films looking to the future? One such, an Australian premiere, is “TransMilitary” from the US looking at four individuals putting their careers and livelihoods on the line by coming out as transgender to top brass officials in the Pentagon.

This film is “electric”, Papas says. With a 100 per cent rating by film guide “Rotten Tomatoes”, its relevance has been sharpened by President Trump’s ambiguous approach to banning some transgender people from US military service.

Veterans Film Festival, Capitol Theatre, Manuka, November 1-3. Book at


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Helen Musa
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