By Scott Hopkins
January 05, 2012
2011 delivered an amazingly eclectic collection of documentaries and I think it only makes sense to give them their own list. After being a fan of the genre for many, many years it’s nice to see the public finally warming up to the art form. No doubt reality T.V. , the marching penguins, Ken Burns and the History Channel have contributed greatly to the success of the documentary’s rise in popularity. That and the fact that what passes for “fiction”, especially in recent years, has proven to be sadly lacking. When it comes to documentary films the old adage still holds true, you simply can’t make this stuff up, (though they did try with An Inconvenient Truth, didn’t they?)
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July 05, 2011
When actor Gary Sinise walks onto a military base – something he’s done regularly for decades, for charity work, as well as visiting family members who’ve served – there’s one name that he hears more than any other: “Lieutenant Dan.”
That would be Lt. Dan Taylor, the crusty commanding officer from “Forrest Gump.” Sinise’s character returns from Vietnam physically and emotionally broken, only to rise up on Forrest’s urging to astounding success after leaving the military.
It’s that spirit that Sinise carries to the Lt. Dan Band, which Sinise and his fellow musicians have brought to military bases across the world. And it’s that spirit that drives the new downloadable documentary film about the band’s travels: “Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good.”
“Top Line” caught up with Sinise to discuss his work for veterans’ causes through the Gary Sinise Foundation, and the famous character that may be his most enduring link to the service members he helps champion.
“I'm always a little bit surprised still today that people recognize me for that, but if you look at it — that movie is on television like every other month,” Sinise said. “They sell thousands of DVDs to new generations of kids that are seeing it. …”
“I think with the military, it’s a character that really resonates — the story. You know, it’s a resilient story, where he wants to be that great soldier and he kind of gets cut away from. But then he, at the end, he rises up again. He stands up.”
Sinise talked about the particular challenges facing the current generation of veterans and their families.
“It’s 0.5 percent of the population are our defenders. And if you don't personally know somebody who's serving, or you have a friend or family member or something like that, life goes on and you do your thing,” he said. “If they're not on the front pages and they're not being talked about, it’s very easy to forget that they're out there sacrificing for us. There’s a very, very small percentage of the population of the United States that defends our country.”
Sinise said he hopes the new film will be watched by troops serving in war zones:
“A platoon in Iraq or in Afghanistan or somewhere and you have Internet access — you can download this movie and watch it. And it’s a morale-boosting movie, because it’s all about them.”
Photo: AP Images
July 04, 2011
Gary Sinise has played Det. Mac Taylor on CSI: New York for seven seasons. He co-founded the esteemed Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago when he was only 18 years old, directed and starred in a sterling cinematic adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and played larger-than-life politicians Harry Truman and George Wallace in award-winning television movies. But chances are, you know him first and last as Lieutenant Dan. His Oscar-nominated role as a disabled and angry Vietnam War veteran in 1994’s Forrest Gump resonated with audiences, and when he began visiting soldiers with the USO, everyone recognized him immediately as that character. So when Sinise formed a musical band to entertain the troops, there was only one logical name for it.
The Lt. Dan Band, on which Sinise plays bass guitar, performs about 40 shows a year in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, and a new documentary about Sinise’s dedication to the troops is available for pay-per-view online starting today. Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good is the result of nearly two years of trips around the globe, and it documents Sinise’s bond with the men and women who put their lives in harm’s way. For the next 30 days, the film will be available online for $3.99, with a quarter of that fee donated to the Gary Sinise Foundation.
Tonight, the band will be celebrating the nation’s holiday by performing for soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, but the actor recently talked to EW.com about his music, his movie, and his passion for America’s real heroes.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you find yourself flying into warzones like a modern-day Bob Hope?
What exactly was your band at that point?
Had you always played?
What kind of band are you?
When did you think this was something that might make a documentary?
When you were making Forrest Gump, did you ever imagine your character would become such a part of your life?
I’m guessing you hear a lot of “Lt. Dan?!” wherever you go, whether it’s Iraq or the local supermarket.
Did the band every toy with other names?
Lt. Dan Band is a much better name.
Happy 4th of July! There?s a great way to prepare for or wind-down from feasting and fireworks today, which is to download and watch the new movie, 'Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good.'
This flick follows Gary Sinese and his colleagues in the Lt. Dan Band as they travel the country and the world playing concerts for the U.S. soldiers, sailors and Marines who have volunteered to keep our freedom protected.
Filmmakers Jonathan and Deborah Flora knew that the story of Sinese?s commitment to our troops and to first responders was pretty much unique among big-name Hollywood actors in terms of the amount of time Sinese had invested and variety of venues he and his bandmates had played over the past few years.
The Floras also figured out that musicians make very good talking heads, especially when interwoven with the first-person stories of sacrifice, courage and heartbreaking loss that make up the film's theme.
And they knew that Sinese's role as Lt. Dan in the Forrest Gump flick was a brand known the world over and near and dear to the American military as the tough-talking, hard-charging platoon leader who suffers terrible injuries but returns to battle back to a rewarding life in the states.
Even though Sinese is the star of the new film, its heroes are the men and women who have served since the war began, especially those who have lost their lives and the families of those who have fallen.
Sinese, in the film and in interviews surrounding its release, is uncomfortable with praise for his contributions, saying again and again that he just wants to do his part for those who do so much more. Entertainment matters, he says, and laughs and songs, and good days help make the bad days easier to endure.
Thus a Snowball Express concert for the children of service members who have lost their lives is a great annual gathering full of love and energy, and a gig the Lt. Dan Band clearly loves playing.
Embedded in the movie are some clips of Bob Hope, Connie Stevens and Raquel Welch touring the battlefields and flight decks of the Vietnam War, a reminder that great patriots in the entertainment industry have never shirked their duty to deploy some of that talent and fame in the service of the service.
Two nights ago an old aviator regaled me with a story of how Hope had redesigned his tour many years back to perform for the aviators and crew of the U.S.S. Franklin Roosevelt during the war. The memories that these entertainers make are lasting and cherished.
Sinese is not alone in doing this work, but he is by far the champion of the effort, and of similar efforts aimed at continuing the salute to the fallen first responders of 9/11, as some amazing footage and guests in the Lt. Dan Movie bring home.
Sinese and his band--an amazing group of musicians led by Sinese and Kimo Williams and nearly a dozen other extraordinary players and a score of key supporting staff--work hard at their craft and have gotten better and better at it. Their concerts open strong and keep the momentum going and the troops cheer every familiar anthem and every new composition.
But what they are really applauding is the fact that some civilians of note and talent have traveled to their world to say thanks.
So download and enjoy the movie. If you want to help support the groups that Sinese and company support, visit The Gary Sinese Foundation and help out. The fireworks still go off tonight because of the incredible men and women of the American military, and it is a great day to remember that fact with action as well as words.
Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.
July 03, 2011
Fourth of July is historically a prominent day at the cinemas. If you’re not feeling the barbeques or sweating 15 lbs. off at the Tampa Bay beaches, then a big budget summer blockbuster always has its doors open.
But what if you’re not feeling the crowded and over-priced theaters? Or even better: what if we truly celebrate our Independence Day by supporting the people that have ensured we can still party and enjoy the finer freedoms in USA. Even Pabst Blue Ribbon. And on that note, ladies and gents, enter in the Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good.
Opening on the trendy internet, for all to see, the documentary revolving around Gary Sinise’s band; who plays countless shows for our troops and first responders all over the world, tells the little known story about what the accomplished actor has been doing since the 9/11 tragedy in supporting our brave men and women.
REVIEW OF LT. DAN BAND: FOR THE COMMON GOOD
Director Jonathan Flora’s been a trooper himself these last few months as well, while tirelessly promoting his first ever documentary. After a few emails and a couple calls, Flora spoke to yours truly about the film and what moved him about Gary’s passion, as he uses the power of music to give a token of appreciation back the troops and their loved ones.
INTERVIEW WITH JONATHAN FLORA
The Lamplight Entertainment documentary is releasing via the film’s official web site for just four bones. One of those said bones is donated to the Gary Sinise Foundation (all info is in the interview).
Now that’s probably the cheapest summer movie release in the thirty years. And studios can’t butcher this one.
Some people crave the spotlight with the things they do in life, while others tend to avoid it. Gary Sinise is the latter in this case, but Jonathan Flora passionately felt Sinise deserved a token of recognition for his tremendous act of patriotism. After viewing “Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good,” one couldn’t agree more.
Now the first name you probably recognize. Sinise is an accomplished actor who was nominated for an Oscar thanks to his combustible, yet endearing, performance as Lt. Dan in “Forrest Gump.” He’s won an Emmy, Golden Globe, and is constantly lauded for many of his efforts in the film & television. Perhaps his biggest accomplishment though, is what he started doing ten years ago with his touring cover band, as they venture all over the world performing for out brave men and women, who train and fight for our precious freedom. And strangely, only a portion of the country is aware of it.
Enter in Jonathan Flora. Flora is currently a producer for Walt Disney Studio’s home entertainment department. Any time one sees promotion for a live-action Disney Blu-ray or DVD product, Flora is the man running the show. The guy has also won his share of accolades with his creative marketing work on trailers, TV, and radio spots for the studio. He was once the Director of Marketing for World Wrestling Entertainment, where he began dabbling in filmmaking while producing television spots and vignettes. Now, he and his wife Deborah have created Lamplight Entertainment. Even with his impressive resume, Flora is most proud of one thing in particular…
“Within the entertainment business, people aren’t necessarily going to know who I am. But, I’m a veteran and I like to hang my name on that” says the former sergeant of the 82nd Airborne Division.
With all that said, Jonathan…readers; readers…Jonathan. And here’s why I’m yapping with him…
Flora is the director of the Lt. Dan Band documentary, which will be releasing appropriately on July 4th. However, it will not be a traditional release. Lamplight Entertainment decided to forgo dealing with typical studio distribution. Therefore, they developed a streaming option via the official web site, so anyone with an internet connection can pull up and be a part of this special film. Ironically, they’re executing a style that many bands are doing today with their respective albums – release it on your own and control your own destiny – to reach the maximum amount of people. Flora elaborates a bit more on why he chose this approach, even though they did have talks with distributors about a possible theatrical release plan…
“This isn’t like Transformers as you know. This is a documentary and we didn’t want to get limited (literally) to a theatrical release in a handful of cities.”
His main reason for this strategy is a noble one; for every $1 out of the $4 it costs to view the feature, goes back to the Gary Sinise Foundation. Enabling Sinise to continue what he’s doing to support the USO and other institutions such as Operation International Children and Snowball Express. Plus, the troops overseas want to see it!
“We know exactly who our target audience is and we want to be sure this reaches them.”
“At the end of day, accolades are nice, but we want the consumers to see it, we want them to like it. We found from all the screenings that we’ve done is that people are motivated to want to do something. And we’re not going to stir up that emotion and not have somewhere to send them. And so for a movie like this, the more we can keep that emotion going, the more people are going to do something.”
Anyone wondering how a guy like Flora and Gary Sinise came together?
“I met him at a film festival a few years ago and then met him a few months later at the G.I. film festival, where I’m on the advisory board. I felt so inspired about what he’s doing; I wanted to share that inspiration.”
It’s that simple folks (it’s not like Jonathan and I were doing an Inside the Actor’s Studio thing). Flora has been going all over the country – on his own vacation time – promoting this 4th of July release. And since both our names end in a vowel (chatty Italians), we were mindful in trying not to babble so we can get to all the topics yours truly wanted to cover.
The most recent above quote though is the feeling he hopes others will receive after seeing this documentary, because it urges people to want to help in a variety of ways. Flora talked about the special screenings he has started doing with this film and the reactions he’s been personally seeing via emails and face-to-face. One particular email stated that after watching Lt. Dan Band, a father, who was with his 5 year-old son, went up just to shake a soldier’s hand. The father reflected how proud he was to have his son see his act of graciousness.
Flora told a quick tale on how they had a private screening with Basketball Hall of Famer Pat Riley, President of the Miami Heat. Flora revealed that as soon as the doc ended, Riley turned to him and said he “felt so inadequate.” Flora thoughts based on that situation…
“You know, no matter how much you might be doing already; no matter how much you have whether its notoriety, money or celebrity status, you can always do more.”
From there the focus shifted to the physical filmmaking aspects of the documentary. Being his first doc, what challenges did Flora have transitioning from a structured script to a raw, uninhabited production? Was he in over-his-head at times? At this point, I bit my lip and just let the guy roll on with his experience. Which is coincidently a practice he had to implement on himself multiple times during this project…
“You start rolling the cameras and then real-life takes over. People start talking and bring in their experiences and their emotions. And it’s like, WOW, there is all these incredible, incredible stories being told. And I shot hundreds of hours of footage; and to edit that down to 90 minutes was one of the most painful things I ever had to do. My editor (Jeffrey Doe) and I, we could be sitting there watching an interview, where we’re either laughing or crying, but the story could have taken an exit ramp and gone way over here in different directions.”
Basically, there are so many avenues Flora could have drove down with all the footage he amassed that it becomes a heavy responsibility on how he handles each segment. He never felt in over-his-head per se, but…
“It was pretty overwhelming on making decisions on whose story is told and whose makes the bonus DVD features.”
One segment, in what became the last shot of the doc, is a heavy, emotional question to Gary Sinise while they’re on their way to another gig. This both tested Flora’s guile as a filmmaker and a human being…
“You know I really like your questions, because you’re getting into the filmmaking aspects of it.” (Well thanks my man, you’re a cool cat as well)…
“I didn’t want to make a movie with a bunch of ‘thank yous’ to Gary. I wanted to present things to Gary that I knew meant the world to him.”
This said last question revolves around how a widow of a fallen solider, who Sinise met a few times over the years, thought of the actor. His reaction, coupled the bravery of how the shot was executed, is extremely powerful to behold…
“He went speechless even longer than what I kept the camera on him for the final cut of the film. Gary felt undeserving hearing certain praise.”
Joe: How were you able to maintain your composure and not chime in during this seemingly awkward moment?
Flora: You’re responsible for where you take them emotionally. And I knew that I had taken Gary where he was very moved and touched by it. And it took everything I had to not help bail him out. You want to crack a joke or say another line. I’m just very proud I kept my mouth shut and just let that emotion ride out with him.
And with that, we fade to black.
But there’s always extra footage in the credits folks. With that said, here’s this articles version of footage…
Jonathan and Deborah Flora’s purpose of Lamplight Entertainment is to celebrate the hero, not the anti-hero. They strive to produce movies that are inspirational and entertaining; encompassing characters that we care about; and want to follow on their journey.
James Jay Carafano
July 01, 2011
During World War II, most of Hollywood put on a uniform. Disney built models to train pilots for their bombing runs. Actors enlisted. Ronald Reagan entered the Army enlisted reserve in 1937. Studios started cranking out patriotic films before the first bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor. When Warner Brothers released “Sergeant York,” Sen. Gerald Nye of North Dakota held hearings to accuse the studio of warmongering.
But Hollywood has been on the sidelines of America’s wars ever since. They became just stuff for backstory. Take the 1994 film “Forrest Gump,” the story of an Alabama simpleton who redeems the faith of everyone he touches, including his disgruntled former commander Lieutenant Dan, the epitome of the burned-out Vietnam vet.
“Have you found Jesus yet, Gump?” growls legless Lt. Dan to the clueless Forrest, who replies, “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him, sir.”
Gary Sinise, who played the iconic Lieutenant Daniel Taylor, could never shake off the role. Even as he picked lead roles in other movies, people on the street would give a shout-out to “Lt. Dan.”
Sinise never shook off his brush with war, service and sacrifice either. Retired Marine Captain Dale Dye, who trained Gary to act like a soldier for "Forrest Gump," recalls in a new documentary that when the film wrapped, he told Sinise, “You could have done it -- you could have soldiered.”
While Sinise never served (though many in his family did), since 9/11 he has given back to our men and women in uniform and their families like almost no one else in Hollywood has, playing more than 40 USO tours and concerts. The new documentary “Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good,” which premiers online on July 4, chronicles the band's journey from pick-up jam sessions to funding-raising concerts for veterans and first responders.
The film is a lot like the real Lt. Dan. Though it features Sinise and the band on tour, as the story progresses they fade into the background. “Lt. Dan” is really about true heroes -- fireman who lost their lives on 9/11, fighter-pilots who never came back to their wives and young kids, soldiers who beamed at having their photograph taken with a movie star -- who never lived to share that memory.
Starting on the Fourth of July, the film can be seen online at www.ltdanbandmovie.com. Part of the proceeds from the film go to the recently established Gary Sinise Foundation, which will support programs for soldiers, veterans, first responders, and their families.
Hollywood may not be back at war. But at least Lt. Dan is out there soldiering.
June 29, 2011
Gary Sinise played double amputee Vietnam War survivor Lt. Dan in the Oscar-winning drama “Forest Gump.” Eight years ago he formed a band of the same name, a band that has supported and performed for U.S. armed forces all over the world.
On July 4th, Sinise’s love of music and country can be seen in the new film “Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good,” a documentary celebrating America’s heroes and chronicling the Academy Award-nominated actor’s band of patriots.
“I’m on the advisory board for the G.I. Film Festival in Washington, D.C . Five years ago we gave Gary our Spirit Award. That’s when he and I first started up a friendship,” the film’s director/producer, Jonathan Flora, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “He found out I was a veteran of the 82nd airborne, and I started finding out about the things he does to support our troops. Of course I had no idea whatsoever, because he doesn’t do it for accolades or for self-promotion. I just remember being so inspired by his example of giving back that I wanted to share that inspiration.”
“Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good” is being promoted with a unique, cause-driven marketing scheme designed to directly benefit the troops, and enable anyone and everyone to watch the film.
“The heart of this movie is really giving back to those who are willing to lay down their lives for this nation. Even the act of streaming the movie [which costs $3.99]. One out of every four dollars is going back to the Gary Sinise Foundation, so that he can continue doing what he’s doing,” Flora said, adding that Sinise’s foundation honors our nation’s defenders through an array of programs and projects, in addition to supporting several charities including the USO, Operation International Children and Snowball Express.
And Sinise isn’t the only Hollywood face in the film. Academy Award winners Jon Voight and Robert Duvall, actress Raquel Welch, singer Connie Stevens, and others have supporting roles in the film.
“It’s really our men and women that are the stars of this movie. We’re taking that spotlight of celebrity that society will put on someone like Gary and turning it over and putting it on our men and women in uniform, whether they’re military or first responders, or family,” Flora said. “This isn’t a praise piece about Gary. This is following Gary and the band, using them as a vehicle to meet the men and women in uniform.”
The filmmakers behind “Lt. Dan Band: For The Common Good” also made it their mission to capture as many different branches of service as possible, and as many different environments.
“We were at a boot camp for the Navy and Army, we were at Great Lakes Naval training facility, and I got to go to Fort Leonard Wood, where there is all the basic training going on,” Flora said. “And we went to Iraq and Kuwait. In Iraq, Gary didn’t want to go in a big group. He said, ‘I want to go out to some FOBs,’ forward operating bases, where they just simply don’t get visitors. For a lot of the trip, it was just four of us, going around to these places and often Gary did hear that he was the first celebrity guy to come out there and just visit. Our men and women, their B.S. meters are finely, finely tuned. They know who’s there for a photo op and they know who has their back.”
Flora hopes the film touches the hearts of all Americans, and shows our servicemen and women that their sacrifices haven't been overlooked.
“Not only have we not forgotten them, but we’re saluting them and we have their back,” Flora said. “You’re laughing, you’re crying, you’re clapping. More importantly, you’re motivated to want to go and do something. The more people that do something, the more people that will benefit.”
June 27, 2011
Bob Hope would be proud. Actor Gary Sinise's commitment to entertaining U.S. troops with his Lt. Dan Band has been chronicled in a new docu feature set to bow online July 4.
The doc, "Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good," follows Sinise's travels over a two-year period to military installations in Kuwait and Iraq, among other locations. Pic has had some film fest exposure, but the decision to preem online was made in part to allow service members around the world the opportunity to see the pic via Web streaming.
"We want as many eyeballs on it as possible," says director-producer Jonathan Flora, an Army vet who served with the 82nd Airborne Division.
The pic will be available at LtDanBandMovie.com for $3.99, with one dollar from every sale going to the Gary Sinise Foundation, which supports military members and their families, the USO and other charities. After 30 days online, the docu will be released on DVD and shopped to cable outlets.
Sinise was spurred into action with the USO and other military support orgs by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Lt. Dan Band moniker is a nod to the Lt. Dan Taylor character he played in "Forrest Gump" -- a serviceman who lost both legs in Vietnam. At every show, whether in the Middle East or Midwest, the star of CBS' "CSI: NY" never fails to salute the aud for the sacrifices they make.
Along with performances by the 12-piece rock band (Sinise plays bass), the doc features appearances by Jon Voight and Robert Duvall, among others.
The first screening of "Lt. Dan Band" was held for 1,100 troops aboard the USS Intrepid in New York City during a memorial weekend for those affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The screening was "pretty humbling and quite an honor," Flora says.
New York Post
Michael Starr, Starr Report
June 21, 2011
The "CSI: New York" star, who's headlined the CBS series since (believe it or not) 2004 now, is devoting a lot of time and attention to The Gary Sinise Foundation, which officially launches July 4 with the mission to "Serve Our Nation by Honoring Our Defenders, Veterans, First Responders, Their Families and Those in Need."
As part of that mission, Sinise's foundation helped raise money to build The Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance in KeySpan Park -- honoring those who both risked and gave their lives in the Sept. 11 attacks -- and helped raise funds for The Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, County, Va., dedicated to the 184 people killed in attack on The Pentagon on Sept. 11.
The launch of Sinise's foundation will coincide with the release of "Lt. Dan Band: For The Common Good," Jonathan Flora's documentary about Sinise's band (named after his "Forrest Gump" character), which has entertained military related organizations worldwide (among other groups). Flora's doc will be released online for 30 days (ltdanbandmovie.com); when someone streams the movie, one out of every four bucks will go to The Gary Sinise Foundation to support its many programs (including relief for wounded warriors, school supplies for children where US troops are deployed and scholarships for veterans).
Sinise, by the way, is also the spokesman for the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which broke ground last November in Washington, DC.
* * *
Either I'm getting old(er) now, or I've just about had it with cutesy marketing terms (probably a little bit of both), but a new one crossed my desk yesterday: "bookazine."
Don't know what that is? Neither did I when the news was sent to me touting an "exclusive 'MasterChef' bookazine" in a partnership between Taste of Home magazine and "MasterChef" producers Shine Group and Reveille. Turns out a "bookazine" is "A publication combining elements of books and magazines," according to Wiktionary. Good to know.
Anyway, the MasterChef bookazine, which is launching the first week of July, will be 147 pages in length and includes over 60 recipes featured on the Fox show and interviews with show judges Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot. Monday night's "MasterChef," by the way, tied ABC's "The Bachelorette" in the top-rated slot for adults 18-49.
The bookazine (there's that term again) will retail for $9.99 and will be available at major retailers, grocery stores and Mario Batali's restaurant Eataly (200 5th Ave.) for two months.
In a related vein, after doing this for many years, and reading plenty of ratings releases, I think I can say with some authority that, in the Publicist-to-English dictionary, the words "fan favorite" translate into "little-watched."
Trust me on this one.
Scott Hopkins, Pop Bitez
May 23, 2011
"Jonathan Flora has delivered a moving portrayal of service and sacrifice! Connects in powerful ways with troops, first responders, and their families!" — Sloan Gibson, President, USO
“Lt. Dan Band” received the Crystal Heart Award from the 2010 Heartland Film Festival in October. With a special appearance by actor Gary Sinise, the screening was a packed house and received five standing ovations.
"Lt. Dan: For The Common Good" wins Humanitarian Award at Sedona Int’l Film Festival
Director, Jonathan Flora, was presented the inaugural Santini Patriot Spirit Award, for outstanding portrayal of the American military, veterans or their families in a feature film, documentary or short. The award is named after Col. Donald “The Great Santini” Conroy.
February 09, 2011
A familiar face helped make a California filmmaker and his documentary the big winner of the 5th annual Beaufort International Film Festival on Saturday night.
Jonathan Flora, a Northridge, Calif., filmmaker and producer with Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, was honored twice for his documentary, "Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good" during the film festival's awards gala at the University of South Carolina Beaufort's Performing Arts Center.
The film, which spotlights actor Gary Sinise's 13-piece Lt. Dan Band and its work with the military, won the festival's award for best documentary, and earned Flora the inaugural Santini Patriot Spirit Award.
Named after the title character in Pat Conroy's novel "The Great Santini," the award will be given annually to a filmmaker whose work honors American veterans or their families, according to organizers.
Flora honored servicemembers in a pair of short acceptance speeches for both awards.
"(Servicemembers) answer the call in such a valiant way," Flora said. "They're America's sons and daughters, and they come from every walk of life."
Sinise named his ensemble after the Vietnam vet and double amputee he portrayed in the 1994 film "Forrest Gump," parts of which were filmed in Beaufort the year before.
In a short video message to Flora before he received the Santini award, Sinise said it was appropriate that the filmmaker was being honored in Beaufort.
"You're there in Beaufort where Lt. Dan was born," Sinise said in the message. "It's come full-circle that you're being honored there tonight with this wonderful award in Beaufort."
Flora's documentary was among 204 films entered in this year's festival, according to organizers.
"This year was the best festival we've had," said Ron Tucker, the festival's executive director. "We had four sell-out screenings this year. We've never even had one, and this year we had four. Some of the ones that didn't sell out only had l... two or three seats open."