Bastard’s Road (Brian Morrison, 2020): USA

Reviewed by Skipp Scott. Viewed at the SBIFF 2020.

The Bastard’s Road activist documentary about the struggles of Marines who fought in the Iraq War rocked me to the core. This film documents the visceral, fifteen-month journey of Jon Hancock across the country where he visits fellow combat veterans and Gold-Star families of fallen soldiers. The film was beautifully shot on this 5,800 mile journey across America. This is Brian Morrison’s first movie and I am going to watch everything that he makes. This documentary of a first-hand account of what these soldiers are going through should be shown at every VA Hall across America and to all Americans.

Pilgrimages have been rites of passage for centuries. Without knowing what he was getting into, Jon started his one-man backpacking trip to reconnect with former members of the 2/4 Marines nicknamed the Magnificent Bastards. Jon walked hundreds of miles, Rambo-style, to see his brothers-in-arms. His reunions were heartfelt and they seemed to be suffering like he was. They shared old stories and commiserated on camera in unbelievable revelations. Jon also visited families of the fallen and told them stories about their sons that they had never heard.  The intimacy of the encounters and the great cinematography made me cry and I was not alone.

I saw Brian speak on a panel of Acitivist Documentary Film Makers to a small group at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Brian told us how he randomly heard about his classmate who was making this epic journey of recovery. Brian was so intrigued by the story that flew down to Slidell, Louisiana to meet Jon who was already 1,500 miles into the walk. Brian was smitten and knew he had to tell the story of Jon and his journey. Brian went on to produce, direct, cinematograph and edit the film.

With a minimal budget, Brian became a one or few-man crew at seven dramatic locations across the US. Jon sent Brian GPS coordinates of his ever-moving location and Brian would track him down looking for the red Marine flag strapped across his backpack. Brian used drones, gimbals and stabilizers to take amazing videos of Jon crossing bridges and walking down many lonely highways. This is Brian’s first movie and he hit it out of the park in all phases of the game.

Since I saw the World Premier of this movie, Brian, Jon, other Magnificent Bastards and several crew members spoke at the Q&A after the premier. Seeing these strong men in person after seeing them on screen was moving. I’ll never forget this movie and hope that others can see what these men went through by watching this movie.

PS. After the journey, Jon went back to college, got a degree and started a non-profit. His new company is going to help veterans reacclimatize to civilian life. If you know the name of the new company, please put it in the comments.

 

 

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