When filmmakers Brian Iglesias and Anton Sattler released their documentary “CHOSIN,” on the Korean War’s Chosin Reservoir Campaign, they had high hopes for the film.
In addition to positive reviews, it has received several recognitions, including Best Documentary Feature at the GI Film Festival and Best Documentary Feature from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation in 2013.
But the most important approval was from the men whom the pair interviewed for the documentary.
“That review meant more to us than anything else we’ve gotten,” said Sattler, a Jackson Heights resident who co-produced the documentary with Iglesias, who also directed the film.
They were prepared to remake “CHOSIN” following two private screenings they had for the veterans, but the men gave it a thumbs-up.
Four years following the documentary’s debut, the pair is trying to reach a larger audience and share the battle’s story with more people.
This Memorial Day, on May 26, at 9 p.m., “CHOSIN” will premiere on the American Heroes Channel (AHC) and help launch AHC Films, a new outlet for independent nonfiction filmmakers looking for a television home for documentaries.
“We are proud to kick off AHC Films with the critically-acclaimed documentary, ‘CHOSIN,’ giving viewers an amazing, first-person account about a historic battle, and shining a light on the true meaning of honor and solidarity,” said Kevin Bennett, executive vice president and general manager of AHC.
“It premiering on Memorial Day has huge significance for us,” Sattler said. “It will be seen by a larger audience, and the story will be told and these men [will not be] forgotten.”
The idea for “CHOSIN” and Sattler and Iglesias’ filmmaking partnership came out of the battlefield.
The two were brought together by their shared passion for film and service fighting for the country.
Both men served in the U.S. Marine Corps and were deployed to Iraq. After 13 years of service, Iglesias, who lives in New Jersey, joined the reserves and currently holds the rank of major. Sattler, following six years of active duty, transferred to the reserves, where he is presently serving as a major with Marine Corps Public Affairs, NYC.
Sattler, who’s had family members serve in the armed forces, knew at a young age that he wanted to join the military. The Sept. 11 attacks occurred around the time of his college graduation, in 2002, and he enlisted after finishing school.
A film studies major, the Pittsburgh native wanted to pursue moviemaking after his service.
A mutual friend introduced him to Iglesias and about 24 hours after they met, they decided to launch a film company, Veterans Expeditionary Media, and 30 days later they started filming “CHOSIN.”
They were on the road for eight months, visiting 27 cities in 14 states, where they interviewed 185 veterans who survived the battle.
The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, which took place over 17 days in 1950, is one of three pivotal battles taught in boot camps, according to Sattler.
“The odds were stacked against the Marine Corps,” he said. There were news reports saying the troops were going to be destroyed, he explained, but they fought their way out.
Many of the men didn’t even go through boot camp because of post-WWII cutbacks, according to Sattler.
The brutal battle was not only fought in subfreezing temperatures and on rugged terrain, but it also pitted 15,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines against 67,000 Chinese troops.
Sattler and Iglesias felt it was pivotal to tell the story of Chosin and its survivors because it shed more light on the battle and the entire Korean War.
“Hollywood for the most part hasn’t paid attention to Korea since the 60s,” Sattler said.
Their film is the first feature-length documentary on the Chosin Reservoir Campaign.
They also felt it was vital to capture the survivors’ stories while they were still alive.
“Decades separated us but there was a ‘two-way rifle range,’” Sattler said, describing the experience of interviewing the men. That ability to relate, he said, helped them with in reaching out to the veterans, he added.
The result was a documentary that tells not only the story of one conflict, but also of “the human experience of going off to war,” Sattler said.
Along with the AHC Films premiere, Sattler and Iglesias are bringing the story of Chosin Reservoir Campaign to a younger audience with a graphic novel, now available in a digital version and soon-to-be print version, and an animated adaptation that is currently in the works.
The filmmakers hope if the stories are engaging enough, maybe younger people will watch the documentary and want to learn more about the Korean War.