Movie about children of servicemembers getting good reviews
November 29, 2007
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — For documentary filmmaker Donna Musil, Monday night marked her first visit to South Korea in more than 30 years and her first visit to Seoul American High School since she attended the school in the mid-1970s.
But she wasn’t home again. And that was sort of the point.
“I really wanted to just come here and reconnect, just in a full-circle moment,” she told an audience of several dozen military parents and children who came to see her film, “Brats: Our Journey Home.”
The 90-minute documentary, narrated by singer-songwriter and Air Force brat Kris Kristofferson, included interviews with grown-up brats who talked about the positives of growing up in a military family — traveling the world, free housing, and plenty of kids to play with on base.
They also talked about the negatives — frequent moves, leaving friends behind, strict discipline at home, and pressure to achieve and to hide family problems.
The brats in the audience said they identified with much of what they saw.
“I knew there were more kids out there from military families, but it was good to hear they all feel the same way,” said Joshua Horne, a junior at Seoul American. In particular, he liked hearing other brats talk about their global view of the world — “that other people know the world isn’t this tiny little dot,” he said.
Seoul American senior Kathryn Judge, 17, said she wished the film had talked more about moving from an overseas military base back to the United States. She last attended a public school in Utah, where she was one of only a few students with parents deployed to Iraq.
“Nobody really understood me there,” said Judge, whose father is an Air Force major at Yongsan.
Many parents of brats attended the screening with their children.
“I wasn’t a military brat, but I am seeing the struggles with my own children, having moved six times in the past nine years,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald Ecker. The moves bother his two children more now that they’re older and have to leave friends behind, he said.
“Just having an awareness of that, I think makes a big difference. Not so much that you know what to do, but maybe just being there for them,” he said.
Musil said she changed as she made the film, which took seven years to produce and was funded by donations from military brats.
“Once I learned how it (her military upbringing) was affecting me, I was able to get beyond those things,” she said.
More than 500 former brats responded to requests for interviews for the movie, she said, some with as much as 70 typed pages about their experiences.
“We’d get it from people saying, ‘I don’t know if this is helping you, but it’s helping me,’ ” she said.