K. Lorrel Manning’s Happy New Year tells the story of Sgt. Cole Lewis (played by Michael Cuomo), a 28-year-old veteran Marine confined to both a wheelchair and a VA hospital with a group of fellow vets suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The film only briefly addresses the young man’s experiences in the Middle East, by way of nightmarish dream sequences and a very short narrative delivered by Sgt. Lewis to his friends explaining that he had choked in the line of duty and that his squad had been killed as a result. Lewis and the other veterans are all suffering, some silently, some violently, and a major theme throughout the film is problems facing hospitals and veterans affairs when it comes to PTSD, which is a complicated and fragile psychological condition, to say the least.
After the screening, Holly Herrick, SFF programer, moderated a panel discussion between several veterans, the Executive Director of Manasota Operation Troop Support, Linda Craig and the writer and director of the film, K. Lorrel Manning and lead actor Michael Cuomo.
Cuomo said he pursued his character rigorously, spending evenings pushing around in a wheelchair through the streets of New York to ‘see how the world looks from that vantage point, and to see how the world looks at you.’ He also endured a simulated boot camp with an ex-drill sergeant, hoping to channel the spirit of a Marine, of a man who would do ‘everything possible to appear normal, as much as he can, while he is unraveling on the interior.’
Linda Craig called the film ‘brave and relevant’ and something ‘people don’t want to see.’
Wednesday’s 5:30pm screening will also be followed by a panel discussion. Both Cuomo and Manning will be in attendance, though the local veteran representatives are yet unconfirmed.
For more information of the film, visit: http://happynewyearfilm.com/gallery/