One of the standouts at SXSW this year was the Iraq war drama, Happy New Year, written and directed by K. Lorrel Manning.
Happy New Year follows the story of Sgt. Cole Lewis (Michael Cuomo) who returns from a tour of duty in Iraq/Afghanistan mentally and physically scarred. He ends up in the psychiatric ward in a veteran's hospital against his will, but ends up finding humanity, compassion and friendship in a group of similarly injured veterans. The motley crew, ranging from WWII and Vietnam vets to recently injured soldiers in the Middle East, befriend Lewis and they strike up a tight bond within the confines of the hospital. Lewis becomes a ringleader of sorts as everyone tries to find a way to come to terms with their post-war situations. The film also stars J.D. Williams, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Will Rogers, David Fonteno, Wilmer Calderon, Jose Yenque, Tina Sloan and Alan Dale.
A few highlights of the podcast include:
- Manning's inspiration for the film while walking through a book store and picking up a book on Iraq war veterans.
- The inception of the screenplay and its beginnings as a one-act, a stage play, a short film then a feature.
- Manning's incredible research through interviews with veterans and how he used their input to shape the reality of the screenplay.
- The challenge in writing such a strong ensemble piece and how he gave each character a unique voice.
- The reasons why the films ends the way it does and the struggle Manning had in choosing the right one.
You can learn more about Happy New Year and upcoming screenings across the country by visiting HappyNewYearfilm.com.
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