"What Educators Are Saying" - (copy & paste this link):  https://vimeo.com/217628556

Almost Sunrise is a story of Resilience & Recovery.   

In an attempt to put haunting combat experiences behind them, two friends embark on an epic 2,700-mile trek on foot across America, seeking redemption and healing as a way to close the moral chasm opened by war.

Almost Sunrise is an intimate, vérité film that eschews stereotypes and instead captures an unprecedented portrait of veterans — one of hope, potential and untold possibilities.

"The film depicts the emotional agony and self-destructive aftermath of moral injury and follows two sufferers along a path that alleviates their psychic distress and offers hope for eventual recovery."

Jane E. Brody, The New York Times
Synopsis: 

A rare, hopeful look at the life of a veteran, beyond his demons  –  from the Emmy® Award nominated creators of Give Up Tomorrow.  

Almost Sunrise follows two Iraq veterans, Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, who struggle with depression after returning home from service. Fearful of succumbing to the epidemic of veteran suicide (20 each day), they seek a lifeline and embark on a physical and spiritual journey across America as a way to confront their inner pain.  

The film captures an intimate portrait of two friends, suffering from the invisible wounds of war, as they discover unlikely treatments: the healing effect of community, and the restorative power of silence and meditation. 

Reviews

“What can I say but what a triumph…  Almost Sunrise was the focal point at the conference for social workers in the military. It fits with social work ideals of self-empowerment, client-centered care and a bio-psycho-social model.”

Benjamin R. Sher, Silver School of Social Work, New York University

"Almost Sunrise explores the idea of moral injury as “an act of serious transgression that leads to serious inner conflict because the experience is at odds with core ethical and moral beliefs.” 

Lucy Westcott, Newsweek

"The film did a great job of portraying hope. That is the biggest weapon we can use against this crisis. That was something I really enjoyed, especially seeing how Tom received help and got better, because a lot of veterans out there feel hopeless. This film shows that we can get better and this is something that doesn’t have to be permanent."

Oscar Mier, Neuroscience Student, Stanford University

"I couldn't have imagined the screening event coming together any better. I think this is the first step in making space for veterans both on and off campus to discuss mental health and for non-military students to understand the veteran experience."

Cristine Starke, President, Georgetown University Student Veteran's Association

"Films like Almost Sunrise create a true starting point to have something that is visual, real, and storytelling. It’s something that absolutely spurs conversation and questions. II walk away from the film with an even better depth of understanding from watching, and I’m so appreciative of that."

Elizabeth Medina, Dean of Students, Concordia University

I loved that you made war and trauma everybody’s probable and something that has to be dealt with collectively.  The film is layered and subtle enough to reach multiple audiences. There is something about the visual media, especially of the documentary with real people, that is so powerful. 

Katie Owens-Murphy, PhD, University of North Alabama

"This will get college audiences thinking about issues they might not have thought about before. It’s not just about the technical aspects of war and what it does to you psychologically, but if there is a sense of the soul or spirit that might be injured, and how do you repair that in a way that might not be medical."

Dr. Laura Franey, Dean of Arts and Humanities, Millsaps College

"I think what all my students will get out of this film is an appreciation for what these vets go through, and see the parallels in their own life. A lot of these kids have depression and other issues in their life... Anytime I can bring something that’s authentic to my students, that’s really the way they learn. And when I bring the actual people into the classroom it’s by far the best experience."

Tony Zappia, War & Peace Teacher, West Bend High School

"I loved it. I learned about the veteran suicide crisis and the difference between PTSD and Moral Injury. Two students here committed suicide in the last two years. It’s a new way to show them the problem without saying “It only happens to you kids”.  I think it’s definitely appropriate for high school students to watch and learn."

Mario Solis, Buena Vista High School

"Healing Our Warriors: Sharing the burdens veterans carry can help bring peace to their troubled souls"

Charlotte Cuthbertson, Epoch Times (cover story)
Director's Commentary: 

Emmy® Award nominated director Michael Collins: 

"A few years ago, as part of a video project I’d volunteered for, I had the opportunity to interview veterans and hear about their lives and struggles. One particular day, my interview subject casually mentioned, “Twenty veterans kill themselves every day.”  I thought I had misheard.  I didn’t.  That was a pivotal moment for me in this journey to make this film.  I realized right then and there that there was a crisis in this country, taking place right in front of our eyes, one to which many of us, including myself, were blind.  In some deep silent corner of that realization, I felt utterly compelled to do something, to act, to serve, to help these people who had sacrificed so much.

Once I had passed the “sniff test” with them, these vets opened up and shared with me some of their most intimate, harrowing experiences, usually those found on the extreme end of the human spectrum.  The connection we shared through these exchanges was of an intensity that would knock me off my feet.  It often felt as if time itself had stopped.  At some fundamental level, I wanted to create a film that would give others a chance to experience that stunning reciprocity, that unbelievable, profound connection.  I believe that hearing stories can lead to empathy, which can lead to action.

One of the most important and, indeed, hopeful aspects of the story is the wider acknowledgement that there is such a thing as a “moral injury,” a wound that has no outward physical traits but yet can act as the primary unseen force that can destroy a person’s life.  Veterans and their families are sometimes all too familiar with some of the possible symptoms; substance abuse, alcohol addiction, estrangement, failed marriages, low self esteem, depression, rage, helplessness and botched suicide attempts.  But just by identifying the nature of this injury, we can take the seminal steps toward healing it in appropriate and effective ways.  It’s clear; we cannot merely medicate our way out of a pain stemming from inner conflict.  The only remedy that makes sense is to treat it at the source, which requires one to turn within.  

The making of the film has created a tremendous opening for me. I can more deeply appreciate and, hopefully, as a consequence, more deeply convey an understanding: that in embracing the struggles of these men and women, and their families—these very human pillars who endeavor to keep the home together—we are not only helping to lift whole communities, but, in essence, we are lifting ourselves.  Truly, there is no “other.”