Film tracks plight of homeless vet

CHATHAM –Local filmmaker David Newhoff has invited veterans living in the county, their guests and the public to a free screening of his short film, “gone Elvis,” November 13 at 1 p.m. at the Crandell Theatre on Main Street. The 30-minute narrative is a portrait of a day in the life of a female veteran, homeless and invisible in the country she served.

The film premiered last month at the FilmColumbia Film Festival, and Mr. Newhoff is now submitting it to other festivals across the country. In honor of Veterans Day weekend, the Chatham Film Club has made the free screening possible.

Following the film there will be a Q&A discussion hosted by Mr. Newhoff and Gary Flaherty, director of Veterans Services for Columbia County and a decorated U.S. Army (ret.) command sergeant major. In a brief interview this week, Mr. Newhoff said he had originally hoped to have Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Chris Gibson attend the showing, because both have worked for to the needs of veterans. Neither of the officials was able to arrange to be there on short notice, he said, but Mr. Gibson’s office indicated the Congressman would attend a screening later in the year.

Mr. Newhoff, who wrote and directed the film, shot it in Columbia County and the Capital District over the summer. He said he wrote the script and found the funding to produce it after learning about the plight of homeless women vets from a TV show.

In a his press release about the showing, he says that addition to the financial burdens of returning home to a deep recession with few jobs, veterans of the recent wars are experiencing physical, psychological and social trauma at rates that exceed those of the Vietnam war relative to the numbers deployed. The statistics are unprecedented for homelessness, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), drug abuse, divorce and suicide.

Thousands of troops are now due home soon as the U.S. withdraws from Iraq, and the federal Veterans Administration anticipates the number of veterans who are suffering will rise.

Mr. Newhoff said that when he began making the 30-minute dramatic film, “I didn’t realize it was going to be such a big issue.” And while he began by thinking of the film as a small project, he now believes it could be a full-length feature.

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