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An Oklahoman Tells Soldiers’ Stories at OKC Film Festival

Filed by Michael Cross in Art & Life, Feature, Local News, News.
June 5, 2013

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Oklahoma City’s DeadCenter Film Festival kicks off its 13th annual event tonight with a screening of a Rolling Stones documentary at the Myriad Gardens.

Movie lovers will enjoy nearly 120 films in and around downtown Oklahoma City over the next five days.

One film from an Oklahoman takes viewers into an actual war zone.

What you’re hearing isn’t the next action-adventure blockbuster.

This is real life.

The documentary film, The Hornet’s Nest, features 33-year war correspondent Mike Boettcher of ABC News and his son, Carlos, in Afghanistan following the 2010 Surge.

Boettcher says it tells the soldiers’ stories in the style of arguably the greatest war correspondent ever, Ernie Pyle in World War Two.

“He put himself on the front lines with the soldiers and marines and told their story. The Joe in the muck and what these soldiers were going through in our name, and I wanted to do that for Afghanistan.”

Mike usually travels alone so he’s not responsible for anyone else, but in 2010 his grown up son wanted to join him.

Bringing Carlos along was a tough decision, but the right thing to do.

“He indicated an interest in this and I thought that he was a better writer than me and that he would make a great correspondent, but I had to make sure in those early days that I kept him alive.”

The Hornets’ Nest tells the stories of the soldiers, but the film makers also wanted to focus on the father-son aspect.

That went against everything Mike had learned as a young journalist in the Sooner State.

“The story is the story. Audio tells the story or the video tells the story. You’re not the center of it and that was something I’ve carried through more than three decades in the lessons I’ve learned in Oklahoma City.”

With 119 films at the Dead Center Film Festival there’s something for everyone.

“The Cherokee Word for Water” tells a story from the perspective of Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller.

“Worm” a 90-minute feature shot in Guthrie from one angle focused on one character.

And, several documentaries and short films of nearly every genre.

The DeadCenter Film Festival includes outdoor events on the Grand Lawn at the Myriad Gardens every night through Sunday, but this year organizers wanted to do something different.

Festival Director Kim Haywood says they’re raising funds for groups helping with recent storm recovery.

“It’s a way for us to give back; again it’s something we’re already doing. We love Oklahoma. We do this and we’re here because we want to bring them something amazing. We want to do amazing things for them. They’ve been incredibly supportive of us and it’s just our way of giving back.”

Six-year Volunteer Alyx Picard calls DeadCenter the most accessible film festival around, but mostly it’s about appreciating the art of film making.

“I think that our festival is one that celebrates the film maker most of all. We do love the films. We love our audiences that come in, but we are celebrating the fact that against all odds a film maker has made a film and so it’s kind of one giant party.”

The Hornets’ Nest screening runs Friday night in the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

Boettcher says he’s anxious and excited to show it in his home city, but he also says it’s a story which needs to be told.

“With an all volunteer army it’s easy for us to send these men and women in uniform off to some foreign land in our name and then forget about it until they come back and only feel better by saying thank you. We don’t feel that’s enough.”

Mike plans to return to Afghanistan later this summer and says he’ll keep going back until the last soldier leaves.

The Hornets Nest officially premiers on November 11th, veterans’ Day later this year.

You can find out more about the DeadCenter Film Festival on the web at


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