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Flanders, 1916. Tommy Tull, a young West Indies recruit, flees a violent mission in the forests of Belgium. Exhausted and terrified, he encounters Finn, a mysterious Irish officer, who takes him to an isolated cabin and takes care of him. Tommy starts to suspect that Finn might be a deserter as well when he suggests joining forces to ensure their survival. Over the next few days, the two form an unconventional bond, but their newfound peace is quickly tested when a German soldier invades in the middle night. Despite Finn’s insistence, Tommy refuses to kill the German, resulting in a bloody game of survival in which no player will emerge unmarked.
“This project combines my two strongest passions: history and film. History is nothing else but the collection of past human experiences and therefore an infinite source of fascinating and often undiscovered stories. During my studies at university, I read about the British West Indies Regiment, a unit of the British Army in WW1, made up almost entirely of volunteers from the Caribbean colonies. This was an interesting discovery for me, as WW1 is widely portrayed as a mainly white and Eurocentric conflict, but in fact it involved a vast number of soldiers of colour. Britain alone had more than 15,000 black soldiers fighting in the British West Indies Regiment, most of which were volunteers. I therefore decided to have the main character belong to this overlooked regiment. I wanted to approach the widely covered history of WW1 from a new angle. The story’s inspirations begin with the true story of Herbert Morris, a Jamaican soldier fighting in the British West Indies Regiment, who suffered from shell shock, deserted the army, and was later courtmartialled and sentenced to death. By choosing a deserter as the main character of the film, we explore a new dimension of the soldier, typically characterised as heroic, and make him also vulnerable. In the midst of the battlefield, Tommy succumbs to fear, possibly the most common and relatable human emotion, and deserts the violence of war. Fear permeates the story: all three characters’ actions are driven by fear, the ultimate factor that generates the conflict and the tensions between them. Finn is afraid of the German soldier (Friedrich) attacking him once again. Tommy is afraid of what he’ll become if he gives into Finn’s violent methods, and Friedrich is terrified of being killed. The film has an underlying anti-war/anti-violence message, but it is also a study of human nature, posing questions about what makes an enemy. Tommy and Finn are deserters, and therefore no longer part of the army, but does Friedrich remain an enemy to them? This dilemma is the crux of the film and by exploring Tommy’s journey alongside him, the audience is invited to identify with all the characters and to question whether such dynamics are present in the current world where fear and xenophobia are unfortunately a difficult reality in today's socio-political world order.”
20 Minutes
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Guido Zanghi


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