Veterans film festival features US soldiers' experiences on the battlefield and behind the lens

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This Veterans Day weekend, the stories of  American veterans will be hitting the big screen in Hollywood at the GI Film Festival.

The event runs Friday and Saturday and includes several film premiers and panel discussions about the American military experience in film — both as subjects and as filmmakers.

"All films premiering during our event highlight the successes and sacrifices of American military service personnel and the worldwide struggle for liberty and democracy," Brandon Millett, co-founder of the festival, said in a press release.

The event also features networking events and workshops lead by industry leaders — from actors guilds to "Got Your 6," a group devoted to helping veterans prepare for the entertainment industry. It's part of the Los Angeles Film School’s "Annual Salute" program, which has run every Veterans Day for the past three years.

“We have about 400 veterans enrolled in our institution at any time, so it’s a great opportunity for us to serve them” said Amber Chaib, the program’s director.

GI Film Festival the only film festival that focuses on preserving the stories of American veterans. It's normally held in Washington D.C.; this is the first year that it will be held in Los Angeles.

Two of the films that will be featured this weekend were submitted by veterans who are studying at the film school. The Long Journey Home (2011) by George Ohan, and Hanging by a Thread (2011) by Roldan Ranan, will be shown Saturday morning between 10 a.m. and noon.

In another of the films premiering at this year's festival — Wounded Warrior (2012) — Jonathan Davis of the band KORN tells his experience of visiting Ramstein Air Base in Germany with the USO.

“Wounded Warrior” will premier Saturday morning in the Los Angeles Film School Main Theatre. 

Another film commemorates the Army ­– Navy college football game two months after the terrorist attacks on Sept 11.

From Philadelphia to Fallujah: One event. One game. One decade. (2011) Looks at the lives of the men who played in that game and then went on to spend the next decade fighting the war on terrorism. The film, which has been shown at several past festivals, will run at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The event will conclude with a keynote address by Michele S. Jones, the first woman in the United States Army Reserve to reach the position of command sergeant general.

This  weekend's event will raise funds for the festival's continuation and for the Semper Fi Fund, which provides financial support to wounded Marines and their families. There is also an online auction to benefit the organizations.

Festival admission prices start at $12 per person and are sold per event on both Friday and Saturday. Military service members and veterans receive a 50 percent discount.

For more information or for a schedule of events, visit gifilmfestival.com or annualsalute.com.

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