This Memorial Day weekend, in between the barbeques and parties, let’s remember what this holiday is for: to honor the brave men and women who fight for our freedom. Timing is everything and watching a film about veterans this weekend is one great way to celebrate. “Happy New Year” is a poignant film about soldiers returning from war. The news is the film is now available nationwide through SnagFilms on Cable On Demand (Verizon Fios, Comcast) and Digital Broadband (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox and Vudu). The DVD and subscription-based streaming options are coming this summer.
The award-winning movie is written and directed by K. Lorrel Manning and stars Michael Cuomo. This film has ignited a social movement and attracted stars like Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters as a mouthpiece. Cuomo’s character, Sgt. Cole Lewis, is based on a composite from over 80 interviews with soldiers. “Happy New Year” has been well received and compared to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Coming Home.”
The film is a wake-up call for how this country is treating the people who protect us. Let us all think of our soldiers during this Memorial Day holiday.
The star of the film, actor Michael Cuomo, sat down for an interview yesterday with Examiner Dorri Olds.
Can you sum up your experiences with “Happy New Year”?
Michael Cuomo: It has been a wild ride for six years. After first doing a play and then a short movie, Lorrel [Manning] and I premiered the full-length feature at SXSW film festival in March of 2011 and spent the last two years traveling to 20 cities in the US for festival engagements and military events. “Happy New Year” won the Best Picture Audience Award at the Oldenburg International Film Festival in Germany and after a successful New York theatrical run in December 2012, we’re thrilled the film is now available nationwide.
How has the reaction been?
We played to sold-out audiences across the country, were met with critical acclaim and received numerous awards but despite all of the positive feedback, finding the right distribution for the film was extremely difficult. We were consistently told, “The film is incredibly powerful, but people don’t want to see movies about war, they see movies to escape reality, not to be confronted with it.” Friends and colleagues urged us to move on to other projects, but Lorrel and I kept pushing. When Stephanie Sharis, COO at SnagFilms, got behind it, that was like a beacon of light shining at the end of a long tunnel.
Musician Roger Waters has become a vocal supporter of the film. How did that come about?
When we met Roger Waters, he was already actively working to raise awareness for wounded veterans across the country through his stadium tour of “The Wall.” He brought vets on stage to be recognized and honored during the show. He was also in the process of putting together a band of wounded combat vets to play the Bob Woodruff Foundation’s annual “Stand-Up for Heroes” benefit event at the Beacon Theatre. Roger was deeply moved by “Happy New Year” and has made several public endorsements to his fans via Facebook and Twitter. This type of a support from a rock legend goes a long way in encouraging new audiences to view the film online and spread the word. I was greatly influenced by Roger’s music through the years, so it has been an honor to have his energy behind the film. They say it takes a village to make a film, it takes a planet to release one.
Can you comment on our country’s attitude towards PTSD and veteran suicides?
Yeah, there’s been a sea of change over the last few years. Press coverage from national outlets has started to get the country’s attention. More attention is being put towards mental health support and reintegration services from the Department of Defense and veteran service organizations. Sadly, the suicide numbers are still increasing. Lorrel and I recently attended Stop Soldier Suicide’s “A Night for Life” benefit on the USS Intrepid. It was amazing to see over 1,500 guests from all different backgrounds come together to talk about solutions. This is a vital humanitarian issue. We are all responsible for what happens to our military when they come home from war.
Now that “Happy New Year” has been released nationwide, what’s next?
Our hope is that the film will find its way into the educational market at university programs and military. Lorrel is currently developing the script “Red House” for One Light Left, our production company. I’m attached to play Joe, an ex-con trying to save an altar boy being abused in a Catholic church. We’re eyeing a winter 2014 shoot and I’m excited. In the short term, I’m meeting with new film/TV representation, workshopping a few plays and auditioning for commercials. You know, the typical actor’s life.