We found this project on KickStarter
Once the fog of war has cleared, the real work begins: How do you repair the damage you inflicted?
A little over a year ago, I learned of a story that shook me to my core. A soldier, racked with the guilt and trauma of his actions, is given the improbable opportunity to confront the survivors.
How would you address the survivors of a family you shot and killed?
Soldiers can tell you that much happens in the fog of war. It envelops combatants and civilians alike and in unequal measures. In the middle of a firefight on an Iraqi city street, a family trying to escape the violence accidentally charges the ranks. Friend or foe? The fastest answer for the soldier is to shoot now, and ask questions later.
This is the story of Reprieve.
This film tells of the encounter between an American soldier and the surviving members of the family he accidentally killed on an awful, tragic day several years ago in Iraq. Years after the incident, he is still looking for the survivors… Until one day, he discovers through a fellow soldier that they are alive and well… And in America.
We spend the first half of the film with the soldier. He lives a reclusive lifestyle, removed from the cityscape and the world around him. We begin to understand what he is suffering from as his voice slowly emerges in the form of a letter to the surviving family members (a mother, daughter and grandfather).
The second part of the film is essentially a single theatrical scene that takes place in the home of the survivors. They have agreed to meet the soldier. It is a scene of tension and confusion, one which sets the characters in motion on a path towards healing.
MEET THE CAST
The soldier, JOE:
- Joe: Joe is a study in repressed anger and guilt, one that is stripped of all artifice. One look from him is worth more than a dozen pages of script. This film is an intrusion into the psyche of a lost soul. Some examples might be Ben Foster in “The Messenger” or Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver.”
- Grace: So far, this is the only role we’ve cast, but we are extremely blessed to have an accomplished, world renowned star to play the part. Difficult moral decisions weigh heavily, and the Belgian-born actress Lubna Azabal has the tremendous capacity and range to convey the agony as well as the nobility of her character’s quest for understanding and forgiveness.
- Diana: The daughter is less forgiving than the mother. She is fast-talking, strong willed, instinctual and sometimes too quick for her own good. She is very different from her mother — her immaturity and lack of life experience prevent her from seeing the bigger picture.
- Abdel: The grandfather adds presence despite minimal dialogue. He does not speak English yet understands the situation in a way the others do not. He plays the role of a “listener” — he is profoundly human and serves as a model of wisdom for the other characters.
MEET THE TEAM
- PRODUCER: Richaud Valls started his acting career in France with a lead role in the TV show “Un homme en colère” with world renowned French actor Richard Bohringer. After performing in several TV shows and movies, he obtained a leading role in a 600 performances run of the Carole Fréchette play: “Les 7 jours de Simon”. French director Gerald Hustache-Mathieu met Richaud on a late night talk show and decided to write a part for him on his movie “April in Love”, starring the French actress Miou-Miou. Richaud’s performance as Jim earned him a pre-nomination as most promising actor in a leading role at the Cesar Awards. Since then, Richaud has appeared in more than 50 movies and has directed several projects.
- EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Nastasssja Many co-founded Simonet Productions with Richaud Valls. She executive-produced “Bobby Boland” with Farrah Fawcett that led to a Broadway debut; the theatrical piece “Lady of the Camelias”; the pilot “Off the Record”; the music video “More Like You”; and the short film “Eighty Six” in competition at Cannes.
- DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY (TBD): Dylan Verrechia was born in Paris to a Sephardic Danish mother and an Italian-French father. He graduated with honors in Film and Television from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts. Director of photography for directors such as Todd Solondz, Spike Lee, Sam Pollard, Richard Kroehling, Roberto Coen, Mark Daniels, and Jean Rouch, Dylan worked in affiliation with production companies such as New Line Cinema, Good Machine, Killer Films, Panamax, Kim Pierce’s Office, MGM, PBS, HBO, Greenpeace, Time Warner, ARTE, the CBC, France 2, La Cinemathèque, L’Oréal, Condé Nast, Notorious, MTV and VH1.
THE DIRECTOR’S NOTE
This film investigates the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, specifically the effects of post traumatic stress disorder (or “PTSD”). I’ve seen this up close and personal in my past work with amputees and the disfigured:
I’ve also encountered it among veterans suffering from psychological wounds, which can often be more debilitating than physical injuries. James Hillman, the renowned psychologist and Jungian scholar, reminds us that “PTSD breaks out in peacetime because peace as defined does not allow upsetting remembrances of war’s continuing presence. War is never over, even when the fat lady sings on victory day. It is an indelible condition in the soul, given with the cosmos… Peace for veterans is not an ‘absence of war’ but its living ghost in the bedroom, at the lunch counter, on the highway. The trauma is not ‘post’ but acutely present.”
How do you move forward, having witnessed a horror or even worse, committed an atrocity? Can you?
You can’t put a band-aid on a psychological laceration. Perhaps you take pills to sleep at night, but ultimately you wake up. You can drink yourself into unconsciousness, but again, you will eventually wake up. There is counseling, but it isn’t always available and far too often, too little when it is. With limited options, suicide has become a viable choice for our veterans — to be exact, 22 soldiers take their lives everyday, or one every 65 minutes.
With these bleak statistics, is there any hope?
This movie examines the existence and possibility of that hope. In the face of man’s inhumanity to man, the question isn’t whether God declares us righteous; it’s how we become at peace in reality, how the twisted and broken human spirit can again become whole.
I want to create an amazingly tactile sense of intimacy, revealing the actors’ razor stubble, their strands of hair, the grain of their skin, the feel of their clothing, and even the relief and contour of their bodies (via careful control of shadow). I want to make the movie as close to a 3D movie as possible.
Most of the filming is done from a shoulder mount — there are virtually no set shots in this film. We lose the focus and then find it; we begin the process of discovery and learning; there are deeply shadowed compositions that abound. We use real light and the sun, wind, snow and rain and other elements that come our way ultimately become part of the story. A very important theme in the movie is the passage of things, the changes and flow that are part of life. By not imposing yourself on nature, you are able to catch these very fleeting, ephemeral moments.
On a more technical note, I am planning to shoot the movie on a 4K camera, either the Red or Arri Alexa. If you appreciate digital photography, you probably know the benefits of shooting in RAW. RAW images aren’t pre-processed and heavily compressed like most images that come off of cameras (JPEG for instance). When working with RAW files, you have much more latitude for correcting exposure, adjusting white balance, and you also get maximum image quality.
The goal for this film is to be in the biggest film festivals of the world, and the demands for high image quality are crucial.
This is how we plan to use the budget:
Risks and challenges
This ambitious project is a labor of love, 14 months in the making and yet, as with any film, the main obstacle here will be time. I am planning on taking a month off from my day job in order to complete this film by the end of February. We absolutely have to finish principal photography by the end of the winter as the story has been written and conceived to take place at this time; and, OUR LEAD actress won’t be available in March.
From a production standpoint, we face the same challenges any film crew faces — the possibility of running over the budget; breaking lenses; losing gaffer tape; actors breaking down and disappearing from the set… This kind of stuff happens all the time, and it does pose a challenge… BUT that doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t get made! ONE THING, I can confirm, however, is that if we go over budget, I will personally fund the remaining portion of the film.