BRATS: Our Journey Home A Donna Musil Film Featuring Narration and Music by Kris Kristofferson
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Published on Monday, June 18, 2007
'Brats' explores lives of military children
By Amneris Solano
Staff writer

They are from nowhere in particular.    And they have lived everywhere you can imagine.

They are the children of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.    Too often their stories get lost in the background. Until now.

The documentary, “Brats: Our Journey Home,” explores what it’s like to grow up in the military.    Narrated and featuring music by Kris Kristofferson, the film uses the personal accounts, home movies and family pictures of a diverse group of military dependents to paint an intimate portrait of life as a brat.    Kristofferson, an acclaimed actor and singer, is an Air Force brat himself.

The 90-minute film is the first documentary to cover the subculture of military dependents.    Filmmaker Donna Musil, a former Army brat, spent six years making the film.    She interviewed more than 500 military brats ages 20 to 70 to depict all aspects of being raised in military life including the long-term effects.

“It’s really about reconnecting and finding a home,” Musil said.    “Finding a home not in a place but with a group of people.”

She’s been touring with her movie to military towns across the nation.    The Airborne & Special Operations Museum will show “Brats” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.    A question-and-answer session with Musil will follow the free screening.

Sandy Klotz, the museum’s executive director, said she anticipates a full house.    “Brats,” Klotz said, fits perfectly with the museum’s mission to offer meaningful and educational material to the public.

“It will be first come, first served,” she said, “So anybody who really wants to come probably wants to be here early.”

The movie will be on sale at the gift shop for those who miss the screening.

Musil, whose father was an Army officer, said she made the documentary as a way to find her place in her the world.    As a child, she moved 12 times in 16 years and lived around the world including on posts in Germany, Korea and Ireland.

“When I was growing up,” she said, “I wasn’t even aware that being a brat meant anything.”

Musil left military life at the age of 16 when her father died.    Her family moved to Georgia where she finished high school.    This is her first film.

“It did give me a sense of peace that I didn’t have,” she said.    “And roots. I have roots.”    We recently spoke to “Brats” filmmaker Donna Musil from her home in Georgia before her stop in Fayetteville.

Here’s what she had to say.

Q:    What was your inspiration for the film?

A:    Really it was getting back together with a lot of my friends from Taegu, (South) Korea.    I lived there when I was a teenager.    Around 1997, I was surfing the Internet and happened upon a Web site for these people that I had gone to school with.    It was really an amazing thing for me. We had kind of had an impromptu reunion in Washington D.C., and it was so fun.    During that time, it was really the first time I felt like I belonged somewhere, and felt like I was home and I had never felt that before.    And so it just got me interested in the topic.

Q:    Does the film have a central theme?

A:    The film is about belonging.    I made the film to try to figure out who I was and where I was from.    And it’s just about letting brats know that they do belong to this wonderful huge subcultural of America that most people don’t know exists.

Q:    The movie has been well-received especially by military brats.    Did you expect to have that kind of reaction?

A:    No.    I had no idea what to expect.    I really didn’t.    Like I said I was really making it trying to understand myself but it seems to have gone a lot further than that.    It’s really bringing people together.    People are starting brats groups around the country in their neighborhoods and in their cities.

Q:    Why did you decide to take the film on tour?

A: We just really thought we needed to reach more brats and we kind of knew where they were.    Brats just basically settle where ever their parents landed last.

Q:    So that’s why you decided to come to Fayetteville?

A: Absolutely.    There are so many military families there and there are so many military brats there.

Q:    What are some of the issues the movie explores?

A:    We talk about both the positive and the challenging legacies.    The positive ones are more tolerance, a sense of mission that the kids carry with them, being resilient, getting a great education, living all over the world. But then we also go into what are some of the loss issues.    How does it affect you when you have to leave your friends every two years?    The intimacy and trust issues.

Q:    What you do hope people take away from the film?

A:    Different people, I’m hoping different things.    For civilians, that they just understand these families and what they sacrifice.    For brats, I hope that it helps bring us together as a subculture.

Q:   What was it like working with Kris Kristofferson?

A:    He is an amazing person and he really stepped up to the plate.    He was a real legend to me and I thought he brought a lot of balance to the film.    He donated his narration.    He donated the use of all his songs. We would have never been able to afford any of that.    I really looked up to him.
— Amneris Solano
Copyright 2007 - The Fayetteville (NC) Observer
The first documentary about growing up military.