Three American soldiers, two Jewish and one Christian, recount their experiences in WWII through the prism of their 90-year old selves, revealing the shocking secrets of taking revenge on the enemy, the consequences of which still linger heavily in their lives. This powerful and poetic film employs a haunting original score integrated with rare archival footage, ultimately revealing that even in a justifiable war no soldier escapes the trauma of the requirement to kill or be killed.
William Farley’s beautifully crafted documentary fuses the specific horrors of its subjects’ battle cries with the universal trauma of adolescents dispatched to kill.
- Michael Fox, KQED
A masterpiece! We rarely, if ever, witness soldiers discovering their real culpability and wounded emotions regarding what they did in combat.
- Sean Kilcoyne, Vietnam Veteran
This film has a deep soul that is very unlike any other World War II documentary I have ever seen.
- Bruce Jenkins, Former Curator at Harvard Film Archive
A searing reminiscence of three “average” GI’s during WWII that will put the lie to the quaint notion that there are “good guys” and “bad guys.”
- Peter Coyote, Actor & Writer
Riveting, moving and profound. It shows the great truth that war is not glamorous, but brutal and ugly.
- Lucy Lang Day, Author
Sean Kilcoyne, Vietnam Veteran
"A Remarkable, Courageous Documentary"
Elisabeth Samet, Military Historian
Meet the director
I Wanted To Be A Man With A Gun began twelve years ago when I was filming a documentary about the painter Elaine Badgley Arnoux. In her studio between setups, her husband, Harold Kozloff, casually told me three shocking stories about his experience in combat during World War Two. Several years passed, and his haunting tales kept reappearing in my mind. Finally, I called Elaine and asked if Harold would be interested in telling his stories on camera? "He has been waiting his whole life to tell his stories on camera,” Elaine responded! Thus began my journey into the hell of war.
I went to the movies regularly with my friend the novelist Herbert Gold, and he told me about his childhood friend Leo Litwak’s combat service as a medic. On a lark, I interviewed Leo and found him to be a terrific storyteller and asked him to be in my film. Time went by as it always does, and a year later at a holiday party a friend told me about his neighbor, Paul Mico, a WWII veteran, who, at 90 years old, was beginning to share his war stories. The three of us met for lunch and I heard his dramatic remembrances of front line combat. Paul agreed to participate in the project.
My first emotional encounter with death took place at the end of “The Sands of Iwo Jima” when Sergeant Striker was shot in the back and died. The end titles came up and the theater emptied but I could not get out of my seat. I could not move. I thought John Wayne was immortal.
My personality was seared by movies and the myth of the hero. This fueled my fantasies of living a life of adventure. I learned early on that I was never to be the fearless male portrayed in the movies I consumed as a child, but the drama on screen created a hunger to know myself beyond the romance of the hero.
I was drafted into the U.S. Army after graduating from art school, and worked for an agency outside Washington D.C. which made tools for spies. I volunteered to work as a combat artist in Vietnam, but I needed to extend my time in the service for the assignment, which I refused to do. I received an honorable discharge and went back to college.
“Thou shalt not kill” is one of the most basic commandments of civilized society. What happens to people who were told: “It is now your duty to kill”? This longing to understand how we behave under extreme circumstances like war still haunts me, and has brought me to the making of I Wanted To Be A Man With A Gun.