Brad Pitt will go back to World War II with the major studio thriller Allied, set for release by Paramount Pictures on November 23; he last visited the war two years ago, as a battered tank commander in Sony’s Fury, and had been there in 2009, with Inglourious Basterds for the Universal Pictures and The Weinstein Company. But Lou Baczewski, a former teacher, turned contractor, and now an aspiring filmmaker, hasn’t looked away since first hearing of his namesake grandfather’s experience as a tanker during a bloody drive from Normandy into the heart of Germany in 1944 and 1945.
Having written of the elder Baczewski’s time with the 3rd Armored Division, First Army in an Amazon-published book called Louch: A Simple Man’s True Story Of War, Survival, Life And Legacy — his war was a match for that of Pitt’s Don “Wardaddy” Collier in Fury — the grandson last year took a bicycle and auto tour of the ground covered by his grandfather’s unit. This year, he is turning the tour into a self-produced documentary, which is being directed and edited by Kyle Gisburne, a film graduate student at Webster University in Webster Groves, MO, near where Baczewski lives.
“It’s not enough to just tell the story,” says an online poster for the work-in-progress, called Path Of The Past.
Whether the masses will ever see the film is anyone’s guess. “We’re looking at festivals and other opportunities next year,” said Baczewski, who spoke by telephone today.
If the movie is indeed finished next year — on a planned budget of about $40,000, including self-funding and friends-and-family investment — it will become one among many thousands of projects that annually pour into festivals around the country. For most, the rising tide of small, self-funded pictures will be an exercise in futility. Almost nobody will watch, and the investment will be chalked up as a hobby loss.
Yet movies like Path Of The Past, born of passion, built with ever-more manageable digital technology, and financed on a shoestring, mark the growing power of what might be called “folk film.” Barry Jenkins’ Medicine For Melancholy, shot for about $15,000, after all, amounted to little more when Jenkins, a graduate of the Florida State University film program, shot it in 2007, and brought it to South by Southwest the next year. Critics raved. Jenkins is now a serious Oscar contender for his second film, Moonlight.
So for stars as big as Pitt, and for aspiring filmmakers as humble as Lou Baczewski, movies — a still magical medium — remain the stuff of hopes, dreams and stories as terrifyingly grand as that of World War II.