The Forgotten The Movie
The Forgotten The Movie

Reviews & Awards
- Sedona International Film Festival -- Winner Director's Choice Award for Best Feature
- Artsfest Film Festival -- Winner Grand Jury Prize & Best Narrative Feature
- Three Rivers Film Festival -- Opening Night Film
- Algonquin Film Festival -- Official Selection
- River Run International Film Festival -- Opening Day Film
- Vision Fest -- Official Selection
- Kansas City International Film Festival -- Closing Day Film
- Breckenridge Film Festival -- Official Selection information & user reviews
Tribune-Review (November 6, 2003)
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (November 7, 2003)
Pittsburgh Business Times (November 21, 2003)

The Forgotten Pulp magazine. (November 6, 2003)

The $400,000 War
Despite a limited budget, The Forgotten replays the lurid details of the Korean War

By Robert Isenberg

In The Forgotten, the independent film that kicks off the Three Rivers Film Festival this Friday, two U.S. tanks fire artillery shells into the dark forests of Korea; a man holds his own intestines as he begs a fellow soldier to shoot him; an officer drives a long dirt road in a beautiful classic car. When the action gets heated, the carefully scored music swells and recedes. When our heroes are fired upon, the fields burst with brown geysers of soil and rocks. The Forgottenruns nearly two hours, its photography alternating between color and black-and-white Super 16 film; the sound is expertly executed.

In the movie business, any film shot for under $10 million is considered small-budget; under $1 million, no-budget. The $400,000 it took director Vincente Stasolla to shoot, print, edit, copy and publicize his feature debut doesn't even register in the minds of blockbuster-seeking producers. But The Forgotten is remarkable on two levels: First, in the tradition of super-cheap films likeBreaking Away and ?, The Forgotten gets unprecedented bang for its buck -- literally, as pyrotechnics aren't cheap and are integral to the film's cinematography. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, The Forgotten -- which was filmed entirely in rural Pennsylvania -- recreates the forlorn wastelands of Korea in 1951, re-examining a war that's famously ignored by history textbooks.

"Most low-budget films are about a bunch of guys talking in a room," says Stasolla, a tough-looking but good-humored man with black hair and a black goatee. But The Forgotten's writer and director wanted more out of his picture: a brutal, action-packed drama about a tank platoon lost in the Korean foothills in the first fall of the forgotten war. As they try to find the U.S. positions, their rations run low, their tempers are lost and mutiny lingers in the wake of their commander's suicide. "It's a commentary about war in general," summarizes Stasolla.

The flamboyance of this ambition didn't worry Stasolla, a 33-year-old veteran of both New York and Los Angeles, who already had several short films under his belt when he came up with The Forgotten's concept in 1997. He submitted a draft of the script to Henry J. Simonds, a producer and head of Headwater Films, based in the Strip District. When they met for the first time, Simonds was carrying an army-green notebook filled with scrawled criticisms. After the script was revised and money was pooled together, Stasolla selected a cast of six principle actors, playing five U.S. soldiers and one North Korean, and brought them to the estate of Michael Moss.

Moss is a collector of eclectic, if not bizarre, knick-knacks, such as classic uniforms and medals, antique weapons and two functioning, Korean War-era tanks. He stores his industrial-strength toys in a 150,000-square-foot warehouse, where his first acquisition, a U.S. half-truck, shares floor space with a restored Jagd Panser Hetzer 38T tank from the Nazi armor corps. Moss owns a generous piece of land in Bucks County, which, conveniently enough, has a similar topography to the rolling hills of South Korea. Stasolla's team braved mud, mosquitoes, the roar of cannon fire and painful poison ivy rashes to shoot The Forgotten, but the effects are stunning.

"I showed the film to Melissa Martin, the director of The Bread, My Sweet," Stasolla recalls. "Her jaw just dropped open and she said, 'How do you know how to make a film like this?' But stylistically, my whole intent from the get-go was to use an older style." That explains the black-and-white flashback sequences and the period-accurate musical standards. Technically impressive tracking shots and difficult camera angles make the project look far more expensive, and the film's many dramatic moments are punctuated by Joel Goodman's original score, performed by a 20-piece orchestra.

It's an intriguing project for Moss, who, at 33, was born nearly two decades after the Korean War ended. And though independent film is famous for its willingness to take on obscure and controversial topics, Hollywood is nearly as historically forgetful as the rest of America: M*A*S*H and Pork Chop Hill are respected classics, but the former's significance is clearly connected to Vietnam.

"We lost the same amount of guys in three years as in 10 years of Vietnam," says Stasolla. When he showed the film to two Korean War veterans, "they said that M*A*S*H makes them laugh -- not the way it makes the rest of us laugh, but bitterly -- that their sacrifices were portrayed in this way." That is, as a cynical farce, barely related to the actual events in Korea. "In fact, they feel very strongly that they stopped World War III," he adds.

For such a politically loaded topic -- whether America's role in Korea was justified by the threat of communism, or whether it all just patriotic hogwash -- Stasolla's six-year foray into yesteryear's East Asia has left him more raw humanitarian than political activist. "Whether a war is just or not," he says, "you can't ignore the fact that a soldier has left home. When the bullets are flying, it's not up to one man to decide whether it's just. What do I find in all this? Gratefulness. When I look at other people, I think how lucky we are. I never had to go to war. I never saw my country torn up. I'm very impressed by the sacrifice of that generation. But it also makes me sad."

And from such sadness, great tragedies are born.

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