It was a very special Veterans Day at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. On hand for a special screening of a World War II documentary was Loretta Swit., who narrated the film. It was the perfect opportunity to give her a Lifetime Achievement Award, as shown in the photo. The evening was capped off by a M*A*S*H themed party at a mansion off Las Olas Blvd, complete with a dummy patient in a surgical tent, a jeep, and a helicopter buzzing the mansion.
In her introduction to the film Never The Same, about prisoners of war held by the merciless barbarian Japanese, Swit said she has met many POWs, "and they have changed my life. These extraordinary people- these heroes- give me such courage."
She put things in perspective by saying people should "stop complaining about the weather" and other inconsequential things they can't change. "That part of your life you are enjoying, you owe to these guys."
While the subject matter of the film is horrific, and on a par of evil with anything perpetrated by the Nazis, Swit said the film "is not going to depress you because of their mindset to survive. It's an uplifiting, spiritual film in that sense." Never the Same features interviews with the few men who survived the Japanese prison camps, and voice overs by famous actors Swit was able to recruit for the film. These include Ed Asner and Robert Wagner.
Looking to the future, Swit said she is making it her mission to preserve the diaries and tangible memories of that period in human history. "I would love to have a museum just for POWs" she said.
The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival continues through November 22, 2015. Visit their website for details: www.fliff.org.
Photo by C Cunningham