New Film Distribution Company Milliarium Zero Announces Acquisition
and Re-release Premiere of Acclaimed Documentary
Landmark 1972 film features Vietnam Veterans Against the War,
Including John Kerry and Scott Camil
Weeklong Run at New York’s Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center
Premieres Friday August 12 — Panel Discussion to Follow
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 27, 2005
Dennis Doros and Amy Heller, co-founders of Milestone Films, announce the
formation of Milliarium Zero, a new company specifically created to acquire and
distribute films of strong political and social content. Milliarium Zero’s
first release is Winter Soldier — a documentary chronicle of the extraordinary
Winter Soldier Investigation conducted by Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW)
in Detroit during the winter of 1971.
Winter Soldier was made at a time when public opposition to the Vietnam War
had reached new heights in response to the revelations of the killing of
civilians at My Lai. Leaders at the VVAW and other antiwar activists began to
organize an event at which vets could talk candidly about their experiences in the
war. Celebrity activists including Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Graham Nash
and Phil Ochs helped raise money for the Detroit meetings.
The Winter Soldier Investigation took place in the second-floor ballroom of a
Howard Johnson’s motel in Detroit, January 31 - February 2, 1971. The organize
rs chose the name for the meeting from a line in Thomas Paine’s first Crisis
Paper: "These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and
sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country.
But he who stands by it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." The
Vietnam veterans saw themselves as soldiers, in the darkest of times, battling
the wrongs of the war and speaking out against the brutal training that made
them capable of unthinkable violence.
Recognizing the urgency and historical importance of the investigation, a
remarkable group of independent filmmakers came together to document the veterans’
testimonies. Calling themselves Winterfilm, their collective included Fred
Aronow, Nancy Baker, Rhetta Barron, Robert Fiore, David Gillis, David Grubin,
Barbara Jarvis, Barbara Kopple, Michael Lesser, Lee Osborne, Lucy Massie
Phenix, Roger Phenix, Benay Rubenstein and Michael Weil. (This group of filmmakers
has gone on individually to make some of the most important documentaries of
our time, winning several Academy Awards in the process.)
Over the course of four days and nights, using donated equipment and film
stock, the Winterfilm members shot footage of more than 125 veterans (including a
very young John Kerry). These men, who represented every major combat unit
that saw action in Vietnam, gave eyewitness testimony to war crimes and
atrocities they either participated in or witnessed. Members of the collective next
spent eight months editing the raw footage from the hearings together with film
clips and snapshots from Vietnam into the 95-minute feature documentary Winter
Soldier. Because the proceedings went virtually unreported by the media, the
film became the only complete record of the testimony.
The film was shown at the Cannes and Berlin Film Festivals and went on to be
lauded throughout Europe. In the US, it opened briefly at the Cinema 2 in
Manhattan. At the time of Winter Soldier’s release, underground film critic Amos
Vogel wrote: "This is a film that must be shown in prime time evening on nation
al television, and never will be." After all three broadcast networks and PBS
declined to show it, the documentary played only on New York’s local public
television station, WNET. Since then, only rare screenings by the filmmakers
have kept the legacy alive.
The Winter Soldier meetings revealed the horror and extent of civilian
murders and prisoner abuse in Vietnam, as John Kerry described it, "committed on a
day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."
These young men talked about their participation in rapes, electrocutions,
stonings, tossing prisoners from helicopters and destroying villages. Even more
disturbing was the revelation that these crimes were ignored, even condoned by
official US military policy. The hearings also exposed for the first time
that the US had illegally and secretly invaded neutral Laos.
For many of the soldiers, this weekend proved a turning point in their lives.
Their courage in testifying, their desire to prevent further atrocities and
to regain their own humanity, provide a dramatic intensity that makes Winter
Soldier an unforgettable experience.
Now, almost thirty-five years after the hearings in Detroit, the words of the
Winter Soldiers remain powerful, shocking and deeply upsetting -- even more
so because they so eerily remind us of recent tortures and murders of prisoners
held in detention by the American military. The terrible abuses of prisoners
at Abu Ghraib have sometimes been reported as unprecedented. The voices of the
veterans in Winter Soldier attest that they were not.
Milliarium Zero translates to "zero milepost." In the US, this official
landmark is located opposite the White House.
Winter Soldier opens for a week’s run at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’
s Walter Reade Theater in NYC starting on Friday, August 12th. A panel of
filmmakers and soldiers will be attending.
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