Foxhole

Jack Fessenden (2019 Color)

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Unfolding over the span of 36 hours in three separate wars—The American Civil War, World War I, and Iraq—”Foxhole” follows a small group of soldiers trapped in a confined space as they grapple with morality, futility, and an increasingly volatile combat situation.


—The Woodstock Film Festival

October 2, 2021

WINNER “BEST ULTRA INDIE AWARD”
Jury Statement (Alex Smith, Katherine Dieckmann, Sabine Hoffmann)

For its technical and political ambition, ability to compel and surprise, and inventive use of cinematic tools on a minimal budget, the jury awards the Ultra Indie Award to FOXHOLE, directed by Jack Fessenden. We appreciated the way Fessenden rotated his actors to create three different stories of military life in three distinct historical moments, injecting questions of race and gender into a genre that is too often all-white and all-male. This is a deft and accomplished piece of work.

The Museum of Modern Art

Josh Siegel, April 2022

Situating an existential human drama in the most claustrophobic, terrifying, and monotonous of settings—a battlefield trench—has been an irresistible lure to filmmakers like Howard Hawks, Lewis Milestone, Samuel Fuller, Stanley Kubrick, and G. W. Pabst. Jack Fessenden’s ambitious contribution to this wartime genre achieves an almost abstract beauty as it spans 36 hours across three separate wars: the American Civil War, World War I, and the Gulf. Remarkably, Fessenden, who grew up watching his parents, Larry Fessenden and stop-motion animator Beck Underwood, make movies, and who began making movies of his own at age seven, wrote the script for Foxhole while still in high school, shot the film after his first year at Wesleyan, and cut and scored it while isolated in upstate New York during the pandemic.

The Hollywood Reporter

—John Defore, SEPTEMBER 15, 2021

‘Foxhole’: Film Review | Oldenburg 2021

Jack Fessenden’s sophomore feature casts the same group of actors as soldiers in three different wars.

A triptych of vignettes set in places where exhaustion, tedium, fear and duty collide to make moral reasoning difficult, Foxhole marks the second feature so far by a filmmaker barely out of his teens. Jack Fessenden (son of genre fixture Larry, a producer here) wears many hats, most of them very well, teaming with a fine cast to deliver a war film where happy endings may be imagined but bloody ones are never in doubt.

The protagonists are Americans caught in three different conflicts: the Civil War, World War I, and Iraq. The same actors play characters with the same names in each episode (with slight variations), but while some similarities of temperament carry over from one incarnation to the next, that’s as far as the overlap goes.

DP Collin Brazie gives each segment a distinct, era-appropriate look, making the most of a clearly tiny budget. In keeping with the confinement of the titular setting, where soldiers huddle in illusory, or at best temporary, shelter, the drama has the intimacy of a theatrical production and could very easily have been staged that way. (Fessenden will eventually open the film up a bit, making good dramatic use of exterior location shots.)

Each scene is a five-man drama, with enemy soldiers introduced when necessary. One of the men is replaced by a woman in Iraq, reflecting contemporary realities, and the script accommodates the changing nature of service for the Black character(s) played by Motell Gyn Foster: Jackson is a sergeant in Iraq; can’t carry a rifle to the front in World War I; and is a “buffalo soldier” separated from his fellow troops in the first episode.

That first episode offers our protagonists the film’s most charged debate. This time around, Jackson didn’t start out in the foxhole with the four other Union soldiers: He staggered in from elsewhere, very badly wounded, claiming to have fought with a rebel and to know where his regiments are located. The nearest doctor who could help him is five miles away, and a frightened young recruit named Clark (Cody Kostro) says there’s no use trying to get him there: They’d endanger themselves, and the field hospital may well refuse to treat a Black man anyway. The group’s eldest member, Wilson (James Le Gros, wielding moral authority in all three episodes), argues the other side.

The men are more evenly split the second time around, when a German soldier stumbles into their shelter and, caught, tries to surrender. Kill the man as if he were attacking, or treat him humanely as a prisoner? Does it matter if he has battlefield intel he can share? As the German, Alex Breaux is hard to read, which isn’t quite enough to make us side with Morton (Alex Hurt), who’s sure the man will endanger them if he’s not killed on the spot.

Where the two historical episodes directly address both doubts and the self-motivating idealism soldiers experience (in the first, a letter home sounds just like one from Ken Burns’ The Civil War; in the second, Wilson has to remind his comrades they’re “representing the United States of America”), the third has little room for ideals beyond survival — albeit a vision of survival in which the possibility of leaving the wounded behind doesn’t even come up for discussion.

A Humvee piloted by Gale (Andi Matichak) is ambushed when its spotter/gunner (Angus O’Brien’s Conrad, a beacon of righteous behavior in previous episodes) takes his eyes off the road. Five Marines sit in the increasingly claustrophobic transport (Fessenden’s frames grow tighter as the minutes pass), shooting into a distance that is so sun-blasted it’s completely invisible to the camera — a common-sense solution to budgetary constraints that doesn’t lessen suspense in the least and, in fact, serves the action well. With his leg pinned in a way that makes moving him potentially fatal, Wilson is stoic while Jackson strategizes against an unknown number of attackers. Will their convoy return for them, or is this vehicle the last home they’ll ever know?

Throughout, Fessenden directs and edits tense dialogue sequences with skill, only once letting an actor stretch his performance slightly beyond the film’s dramatic gamut. He’s a bit less successful as the picture’s composer: Though the music itself suits the action well — like any good prodigy, Fessenden also has a nascent music career — it’s too prominent in the sound mix, sometimes trying too hard to push us toward emotional responses we’re already having. But this is a small complaint against a movie that almost entirely rises to the height of its ambitions. Let other films argue whether war is ever defensible or pit one conflict’s righteousness against another’s; Foxhole cares about the individuals tasked with fighting, in the hours that challenge them most.

ENTERTAINMENT OR DIE

—Kyle Osborne, May 13, 2022

3.5/4 stars

The foxholes from which this ambitious, thoughtful film derives its title are not literal. Not exactly. But the metaphor of military soldiers being squeezed together in a small and somewhat hopeless space is apt.

The producers say the story takes place over 36 hours, but that part doesn’t matter – the cool narrative element is that the story takes place over the course of three different wars, using the same four actors:

Andi Matichak (HALLOWEEN), James Le Gros (DRUGSTORE COWBOY, MILDRED PIERCE), Alex Hurt (Netflix’s BONDING), and Angus O’Brien (THE KITCHEN). Go from the Cival War at the film’s start, into the trenches of World War I, and finally the hot desert of Iraq.

It’s a dialog-heavy script – there isn’t much scenic detail. In fact the final story takes place almost entirely in a Humvee that’s been rocked by an IED, leaving the soldiers to contemplate their fates, joke about significant others and argue over what CD gets played on the makeshift boom box. There is, however, an abundance of tension that keeps the film humming, even absent more physical action.

In the first two parts, race plays a part in the discussions and interactions. Motell Foster, a noted African-American actor, arguably must show the most range – going from a Union soldier who learns that having a blue uniform isn’t going to stop his fellow troops from calling him the N-word. In WWI his character can be more assertive but still has to use cunning to get by. By the third act, he is the Sargent in charge of the troops in the ill-fated Humvee.

The other actors also acquit themselves nicely, transitioning from war to war.

Is there a great big, over-arching storyline with unforeseen plot twists and grand set pieces? Nope. In fact, this would make for a good stage play. It’s all about subtle facial expressions, not so subtle conversations and scared young men, wrestling with their mortality and shifting in small segments back and forth between being proud to do their duty and wondering what the hell it’s all for.

Written, directed and edited by Jack Fessenden, Foxholes is a solid art house release that avoids having its unusual set-up feel like a cheap gimmick.

RogerEbert.com

—Marya E. Gates, May 13 2022

An anti-war movie like Lewis Milestone’s “All Quiet On The Western Front” or Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line” is made great by the humanism at the center. These films put the soldiers, their lives and their souls, above the battle sequences or patriotic sentiment. “Foxhole,” written and directed by Jack Fessenden, aims for such heights. Working with a small cast playing characters of the same name in three wars spread over three different centuries—the American Civil War, World War I, and the Iraq War—Fessenden wrestles with themes of duty, honor, and most importantly empathy.

Bookending his film with shots of a field filled with bloodied, dead soldiers, Fessenden immediately instills a sense of the futility of war. “The privilege of service seems to wither as each battle passes and what remains in the soul is not the glory of combat, but the horror of its aftermath,” a voiceover echoes in the fog. It’s through this poetic Malick-esque dialogue that his characters show how individual humanity and goodness can endure even in the middle of no man’s land.

We first meet his core cast in the middle of the American Civil War, where Jackson (Motell Gyn Foster), a Black soldier, is wounded in hand-to-hand combat with a Confederate soldier (Asa Spurlock). After killing him, Jackson makes his way to a foxhole being dug by fellow Union soldiers Clark (Cody Kostro), Conrad (Angus O’Brien), Morton (Alex Hurt), and Wilson (James LeGros). The soldiers then debate whether their duty is to continue digging or to take the wounded Jackson by stretcher to the closest medics.

Here Fessenden imbues his film with an added layer of social consciousness. One soldier dares to ask Jackson if he were “free” before he signed up, calls him the n-word, and debates with the others as to whether it is their duty to keep digging or to help this one, Black man. To have a Union soldier be this overtly racist subverts the myth that all soldiers fighting on the Union side of the American Civil War were abolitionists. This exploration of how Jackson’s race affects his place within the military becomes a throughline into the next two segments.

A smash cut to the WWI segment sees a young German soldier drop into the group’s trench, where they now debate whether they should kill him or if he is just a “scared boy running from his fate” like the rest of them. Here Jackson’s autonomy is questioned again. When asked what he’s fighting for he responds, “Same thing as you … democracy.” While the dialogue is a bit on the nose, Motell Gyn Foster sells it with raw authenticity.

His dynamic in the group changes again in the final sequence. Now stranded in a Humvee somewhere in Iraq, Jackson is their leader and their group is joined by a female soldier, Gale (Andi Matichak). Here Jackson sheds the calculated timidity of his earlier characters, embracing his charisma as a born leader. While all the actors involved tackle the wordy script with aplomb, especially indie-staple James LeGros who always brings a marked gravitas to any role no matter the size, Foster is given the meatiest role and proves a steady anchor for Fessenden’s weighty aspirations. That said, the film’s exploration of race and sex within the military is mostly surface-level, without much insight beyond representation matters style insight.

Mostly filmed in the Hudson Valley, “Foxhole” overcomes its limited budget and limited locations through Collin Brazie’s exquisite cinematography, which utilizes different lenses for each sequence to give them a distinct visual language. Heavy fog is used for the American Civil War segment, obfuscating their vision and adding a foreboding tone. The WWI trench is surrounded by a pitch black sky and shot in an ominous monochrome color grade reminiscent of G.W. Pabst’s harrowing “Westfront 1918.” During the Iraq segment blinding sun obscures everything outside their stranded Humvee. The similarities of the soldiers’ existential experience regardless of which war their fighting is made all the more clear by creating such stark differences in the visuals of each war.

Fessenden’s tripartite chamber piece “Foxhole” has its heart in the right place and wears its influences unabashedly on its sleeve. While it doesn’t quite live up to its grand ambitions, it’s refreshing to see a movie so beautifully and sleekly filmed attempt to wrestle with humanity’s deeper questions. “Foxhole” might not be in the top tier of the great anti-war film canon, but it’s not too far away.

EVERY MOVIE HAS A LESSON

—Don Shanahan, May 13, 2022

By observantly depicting three wars from three different centuries using the same troupe of actors, Foxhole filmmaker Jack Fessenden holds a multi-faceted mirror up to the humanity and mortality of war. His sophomore feature film questions if the causes have or have not changed when it comes to those two pillars. The way he measures that is within the soldiers themselves when placed in their most confined circumstances.

LESSON #1: THE DEFINITION OF A FOXHOLE– Merriam-Webster defines this movie’s title term as “a pit dug usually hastily for individual cover from enemy fire.” As you can tell or if you’ve seen other war movies, foxholes are not pretty or fancy. They will never be a celebrated or romanticized military landmarks. Instead, they are places bitten, scratched, and clawed at to gain or extend personal and instinctual survival.

LESSON #2: THE DYNAMICS OF A FOXHOLE– Nonetheless, a foxhole is so much more than that. It can be a makeshift shelter or a final grave. They can be toils of monotony, labor, and tested patience. Likewise, they can be suffocating traps of tight quarters, constant danger, and heightened fears. Strategically, they are pivot points for a larger battle where men and plans are organized. Lastly, they are places of reflection as to how one arrived there and how they can get out of this temporary hell alive to return home.

Foxhole brilliantly multiplies and then narrows both the squalor and valor of war down to these intimate places when men are either made or destroyed. By fastening itself to these settings, Foxhole triples the courageous and sacrificial conundrums of when to leave such places, should you, and and why. Causes and legacies, right and wrong, and life and death are shaped by those precarious actions presented by Fessenden in a very spellbinding picture.

The film opens descending down from overhead fog to a Civil War battlefield strewn with fallen soldiers. One Confederate soldier (Asa Spurlock of Stray Bullets) bursts from unconsciousness and gathers himself to find his way out of the mist. He encounters a Black Union soldier (Anya’s Motell Gyn Foster) and loses an exhausting hand-to-hand battle for a pistol. The victor makes his way to an emptied Union line badly wounded.

The commanding officer Morton (TV actor Alex Hurt) and his men are initially taken aback by the sight of Jackson’s color only to learn from him that several regiments of Confederates are organized to hit this battlefield at first light in a few hours. Their vital fortification efforts can slow the oncoming enemy down, but staying there is a death sentence to the bleeding man. Morton is faced with the choice to keep his squad at full strength or weaken it by sending two of them, the mouthy Clark (Cody Kostro of Mare of Easttown) and the god-fearing Conrad (The Kitchen’s Angus O’Brien), away as stretcher-bearers to save Jackson’s life.

Shifting to a black-and-white palette and the barbed wire entanglements of World War I, a German scout (Alex Breaux of Hustlers) stumbles into an Allied trench and silently surrenders. This Morton wishes to immediately execute the prisoner. He fears that subtracting a man for guard duty slows down the necessary wire construction and that the prisoner can scream out and give away their location at any moment. Holding a pointed gun to dispatch the foe, his men are torn on what to do to ease the situation.

Jumping forward to the squinting brightness of a searing desert, our character archetypes now occupy an armored Humvee in 2004 Iraq. Jackson is in charge riding shotgun with Morton’s enlisted wife Gale (Andi Matichak of the new Halloween series) driving to catch up to the convoy ahead. When their vehicle is hit and disabled, the unit finds themselves pinned down with no nearby backup. They can either stay in their sitting duck position or make a run for a nearby ridge with their wounded.

Much of Foxhole’s tension and focus can be credited to the small scale created by the movie’s titular boundaries of man-made burrows. Production designer Tim Bruno (Antarctica) and first-time set decorator Tony Sanchez constructed three distinct pits that might as well be single-set plays in disguise. They are welcoming to all the muddy smears of dramatics and hint at the unseen risks nearby. Cinematographer Collin Brazie (Just One More Kiss) sees to that closeness with clever angles and hiding the edges with gray fog, monochromatic darkness, and infinite sand with his visual palettes of the three eras. Abigail Savage’s (The Spine of Night) sound design and Fessenden’s own moody musical score punctuate the mounting fear from there quite effectively.

Among the small cast, the crucial anchor in all three sections is the Wilson character played by James LeGros, this film’s biggest name with a deep resume of Hollywood and indie successes from Drugstore Cowboy to Certain Women. His mustached and more senior presence is the chosen voice of reason. He can quell the younger men’s anxieties, provide inclusional empathy for Jackson, and have the respectful wisdom to ease Morton’s burden of leadership. Call him the heart-and-soul if you must, but it’s still sagacity prepared by toughness and service in a very warm performance from LeGros.

LESSON #3: RETAINING HUMANITY IN WAR– Wilson is the forthright mouthpiece of humanity in these grim settings of war. He spells out lives that are in others’ hands and the courage that exists to spare a life rather than take one, even when the feelings of self-preservation are at their highest. Honor is outlined and proper duties are reminded and reinforced in efforts to avoid the immoral, cruel, and unjust urges that keep men from the right paths. This virtuous conflict is greater than any with a firearm.

Like a young Robert Rodriguez, for Jack Fessenden to write, edit, score, direct, and ferment this moral base into Foxhole as solid as it turns out is extremely impressive. This could have easily been a haphazard combination of three disconnected short film experiments of dudes jawing machismo and busting balls before hitting superhuman hero mode marks for easy victory and sweaty applause. When the shit hits the fan, Foxhole certainly amplifies the suspense to circle back for the results of each chapter’s perilous decisions. Yet, in every exciting conclusion, the compelling people and what they wrestle matter more than any muscular spectacle.

Shadows On The Wall

—Rich Cline, May 18, 2022

Wars in three centuries are linked by common themes and experiences in this experimental drama. Each contained sequence plays out with five characters facing big decisions amidst confusing military conflicts. The limited cast and settings make this often feel theatrical, especially as the chapters hinge on moral decisions. But the film’s skilful simplicity helps makes it involving and provocative, presenting an unusually complex take on the pointlessness of war.


On a misty battlefield in the American Civil War, four Union soldiers are digging into their foxhole when a wounded interloper (Foster) appears. While they debate the dangers of carrying him to a medic, he warns that a vast army is coming. During the Great War in Europe, five men on the frontline encounter a lone German (Breaux) and disagree about whether he’s a threat or a valuable prisoner. And in Iraq, cocky Marines are messing around in their Humvee when they’re ambushed. Unable to communicate, they don’t know how long a rescue might take.


Each actor’s role shifts from period to period, most notably for Foster, who as a Black man plays a figure of suspicion in the 1800s, essentially cannon fodder in the 1900s and a sergeant in the 2000s. Segments are shot in differing styles, with the murky Civil War giving away to a monochrome WWI and a blindingly sunny Iraq. In these places, the ability to make a decision is muddied by fear, uncertainty and preconceptions. And this mental claustrophobia is sharply echoed in the tight camerawork.

Performances are riveting, reflecting conflicted thoughts and feelings of soldiers facing their mortality. While Foster registers strongest with his varied roles, Hurt’s Morton holds firm as a sometimes overly intense natural leader. Kostro’s Clark has an edgy nervousness that often seems as dangerous as any bullet. O’Brien’s Conrad offers an open-faced compassion that’s magnetic. Le Gros’ Wilson is the thoughtful voice of reason, even when badly injured. And switching in Matichak’s Gale in the desert mission adds an unusual female texture.

Each sequence has an eerily timeless quality, where smoke, darkness and the sun’s glare obscure the outside world, cleverly obscuring any sense of moral imperative. The middle chapter is filmed in black and white like a heightened Twilight Zone episode, with inky blackness beyond the barbed wire putting the focus on almost supernatural discernment. And while ostensibly here to fight for their country, the main goal for each of these people is to get home alive.

RichardCrouse.CA

—Richard Crouse, June 2

“Foxhole,” a new anti-war film now on VOD, links five soldiers over the course of three conflicts, the American Civil War, World War I and the Iraq War, as they make the kind of life and death decisions that could have far reaching repercussions.

Director Jack Fessenden makes the most of a small budget to bring his film’s inter-generational gimmick to life.

Divided into three vignettes, all ripe with confusion and camaraderie, each segment is shot in a cinematic style that reflects the era in which it is set. From the sepia tone look of the Civil War section and the black and white formalist propaganda film feel of the WWI segment to the more frenetic Iraq War sequence, each is distinguished stylistically.

What connects the multi-generational stories are the actors, who play different characters each time out, and the moral dilemmas faced by them. These sequences are claustrophobic, fraught with danger, volatility and a sense of uncertainty. As these elements swirl, the marooned soldiers are confronted with ethical decisions.

During the Civil War, four Union soldiers must decide whether or not to transport a badly injured Black soldier (Motell Gyn Foster) to the hospital for treatment. The question of the dead or alive value of a German captive is the center point of the Great War vignette while the Iraq War section shows the horror of an ambush.

The actors, Foster, Cody Kostro, Angus O’Brien, Alex Hurt, Alex Breaux, Asa Spurlock and James Le Gros, ably portray the range of honor, sacrifice and camaraderie inherent to the character of a soldier and valiantly work through the script’s wall of dialogue. Still, as wordy and occasionally pedantic as Fessenden’s script is, the ideas buried within are worthy of thought.

Stronger are the visuals. The film is bookended by twin shots that showcase both the futility and inevitability of war. These two shots, set 100 years apart, sum up the film’s anti-war sentiment in stronger “language” than any of the dialogue.

“Foxhole” is an uneven, although audacious and ambitious film, that fares better as provocative purveyor of ideas than a cohesive whole.

Backseat Mafia

—Rob Oldam, May 10, 2022

The one thing you don’t normally see depicted in fictional (or factual, for that matter) accounts of war is the sheer terror and confusion of combat situations. Different eras brought their own unique challenges, but chaos and doubt are dangerous when you’re fighting on the frontlines. Logistics and tactics rely on good lines of communication. When they’re not present, anything can happen. As is the case in Foxhole.

A foxhole is a hole in the ground used by troops as a shelter against enemy fire or as a firing point. In essence, it can simply mean a restrictive or protective space. Taking place over a short period and spanning three different timelines and wars (American Civil War, World War I and Iraq), we follow a group of soldiers who find themselves marooned with an important decision to make. The wrong choice may get them all killed.

Foxhole uses its strange premise to good effect, creating three interlinked stories which reflect the eras they’re set in. It works because writer/director Jack Fessenden does a great job of generating a real sense of dread, driven by both the claustrophobic atmosphere and riffing on the fear of simply not knowing. Is there anything really more terrifying than that? Foxhole paints a picture of war which is both constant and pure dread.

MILITARY.COM

—James Barber, May 13 2022

‘Foxhole’ Tells Combat Stories from Three American Wars

“Foxhole” tells three combat stories with the same set of actors portraying soldiers in the Civil War, World War I and the Iraq War. As each tale unfolds over 36 hours, we learn that the technology and circumstances may change, but the nature of war stays the same.

“Foxhole” opens in theaters and will be available via VOD to buy or rent at home on May 13, 2022.

Writer/director/producer/editor/composer Jack Fessenden made “Foxhole” when he was just 19 years old. There’s a couple of ways to approach that reality. Crusty old men could ask what a teenager could possibly know about war, but there’s a case to be made for seeing combat through the eyes of the actual age of the men and women we ask to fight.

We’ve got a clip from “Foxhole,” one that shows the soldiers under attack during the Iraq War in 2004.

While most of the cast are unknowns, you might recognize James Le Gros in that scene. LeGros has dozens of high-profile movie and television credits in his career, most notably “Point Break,” “Ally McBeal,” “Zodiac” and “Hunters.”

How does a kid too young to remember 9/11 get to make a war movie? Fessenden is the son of Larry Fessenden, the low-budget horror legend who’s acted in, produced, directed and written dozens of movies well known to fans of the genre. However, there are thousands of kids of show-business parents, and almost none of them make a movie like this and get a legit distributor like Samuel Goldwyn Films to release it.

“Foxhole” was definitely made on a shoestring budget, but it’s an ambitious project from a very young filmmaker who’s looking to find some honor in service through a lens that explores three very different American wars.

MARK REVIEWS MOVIES

—Mark Dujsik, May 12, 2022

Writer/director, as well as composer and editor, Jack Fessenden tells three separate stories within three different wars in Foxhole. All of them feature characters with the same names, played by the same actors (save for one notable exception), and they also are all are about various levels of uncertainty—from strategic matters, such as where soldiers should be positioned or when and from where the enemy will be approaching, to moral ones, such as whether or not one life is worth the price of others.

The young filmmaker, both in terms of age (He’s barely out of high school) and experience (This is his second feature), shows certain degrees of maturity and wisdom here. These stories are, on their face and between the lines, about fatalism. Two of the tales come to an end just before what seems to be an inevitable conclusion, and we might as well imagine that all of each characters come from the different generations of the same families. Destiny is both on the battlefield, as three groups of soldiers find themselves in a position of being surrounded by imminently arriving or currently present foes, and in the blood, if we do take these characters to be related to each other in some way.

That each story either doesn’t have a clear resolution or does have a decidedly, if inglorious, one displays a cold sense of realism, as well. The other part of the movie’s realistic depiction here is how much of these stories takes place before battle, as the soldiers talk about little of tactical importance and do even less fighting. They’re here to do a job, complete a given task, and hope that it’ll be enough to get them home to family and other loved ones. In each segment, Fessenden establishes a rhythm and atmosphere of the mundane, which reminds us of that old observation of war: long stretches of boredom followed by quick moments of sheer terror.

The core idea and basic structure of Fessenden’s screenplay are sound and clearly have a point—at least in terms of tone. It’s a big idea, and it’s bigger, perhaps, than even the filmmaker comprehends or can put in action. We easily can admire Fessenden’s creation of this material and his general approach toward it, but in the end, the movie feels like a lot of gimmickry, plenty of showiness, and a bit of skill that amounts to little except the obvious.

The three conflicts are the American Civil War, the Great War, and modern-day Iraq. The main participants are five soldiers in each period: Clark (Cody Kostro), Conrad (Angus O’Brien), Wilson (James Le Gros), Jackson (Motell Gyn Foster), and Morton (Alex Hurt), who is replaced in the contemporary section by Gale (Andi Matichak), whose own name is shared by the Civil War-era Morton’s wife.

During that conflict, Morton is heading a unit digging trenches for a forthcoming battle. Jackson, a Black soldier who has been separated from his own unit, stumbles upon the team after being wounded in combat. The plan is to get him out of the foxhole and to a local field hospital, but when Jackson informs the team that Confederate soldiers will reach their position in a few hours, Clark’s initial hesitation toward and distrust of the stranger becomes stronger.

Clark is also an unsympathetic man in the Great War story (shot in black-and-white, by the way), when his unit, again led by Morton and ordered to lay down barbed wire in no man’s land, comes across a German soldier (Alex Breaux). Both Morton and Clark are certain that they need to kill this foe on the spot, in case he’s a spy and before he might give away their job and position. Wilson, who comes across as a moral authority in each of the stories, makes the case against executing an unarmed man, and Jackson, who—unlike his forebear several decades ago—is allowed in this particular unit and isn’t allowed to carry a rifle, suspects the German might be on their side.

In the most current story, Jackson is now in charge of a team (the slow but steady and inevitable—one can hope—move toward progress), traveling across the desert and separated from their convoy. When they hit a hidden explosive along the way, the five have to wait for help or fight their way to safety.

Only that third section possesses a clear-cut conclusion, which makes the other tales more frustrating (particularly the World War I segment, which ends just at the height of the moral debate and on a cliffhanger) and the whole schematic of the narrative feel a bit disingenuous. As a director, Fessenden shows some talent, especially in how he uses these limited and tight locales—the hole surrounded by fog, the artillery-ruined field drenched in darkness, the inside of the truck with windows obscured by blinding sunlight or caked with mud—for suspense and a feeling of known but invisible threat.

As a storyteller, though, the filmmaker stops short in Foxhole. The movie’s concept is fascinating, but its individual tales and existence as a whole don’t add up to much.

jpspins.com

—J. P. Spins May 12, 2022

 Thursday, May 12, 2022

Foxhole, 5 Soldiers, 3 Wars

The hardware and uniforms change, but the fog of war remains. This film also suggests the young people asks to fight wars are in many ways quite similar—identical in fact. The same cast plays out life-and-death encounters from the Civil War, WWI and Iraq Wars during Jack Fessenden’s Foxhole, which opens tomorrow in New York.

Jackson is a Buffalo Soldier who basically crashed a small Union company’s foxhole, after a Confederate officer wounded him, perhaps mortally. Conrad and old grizzled Wilson believe some of the men should carry him to the distant field hospital, but Clark (presumably hailing from border state hill country) argues Jackson would probably die on the journey and the medics maybe wouldn’t take him anyway.

There is a similar ethical dilemma for the company when then film advances to WWI. They have captured a German soldier in their trench at an inconvenient time, so their sergeant wants to kill him and be done with it. Again, Wilson objects and so does Jackson, a soldier from a black regiment, who is somewhat more readily accepted by the white doughboys.

Easily, the best of the three stories is the conclusion in Iraq—but at least a country mile. By now, Jackson is the leader of the squad. There is no internal dissension within the group and they will face no ethical dilemmas. Instead, they will merely try to survive, without leaving any men behind (including Gale, a new addition to the platoon), when they are separated from their convoy and ambushed by insurgents with an RPG launcher.

Of the three installments, the dialogue of the Iraq section sounds the most like the military talk I’ve heard (from family). It also forgoes the anti-war moralizing, instead portraying the courage and camaraderie of the U.S. military. It actually makes Foxhole more effective as anti-war critique, because it shows two sides to the combat experience (and the dangers and difficulties they entail), while inviting sympathy for the men and women in uniform.

It is also the tensest and most skillfully executed. In this case, the definition of foxhole is expanded to include the Humvee the soldiers are dug into. Fessenden (son of Larry, on-board as a producer) uses the blinding sand to narrow the audience’s field of vision, creating an uneasy feeling that a fatal shot could come from anywhere, at any time.

James Le Gros is terrific as the grizzled Wilson in all three wars. Similarly, Motell Gyn Foster is quite strong as Jackson, especially during the Iraq story arc. Andi Matichak also quickly makes an impact as Gale, the driver. The interplay and banter between the Iraq ensemble really hooks the audience, which makes what follows so intense.

When Foxhole hits free streaming, you might even consider skipping ahead to the Iraq story, because it really is that much better. It has a sense of urgency, along with the grit and the sand. On the other hand, the period stylization to the WWI segment makes it too distant to emotionally engage with. The film is uneven, but the parts that work deserve a lot of praise. Recommended for streaming (and maybe fast-forwarding), Foxhole opens tomorrow (5/13), in New York, at the IFC Center.

punchdrunkcritics.com

—Khalil Johnson,

It has been said that the theater of war can be summarized in moments of sheer boredom, and sheer terror. Soldiers can spend plenty of time is spent waiting for the action to happen, but when it happens, it’s complete chaos, confusion, and quick second life or death decision making. While most war films tend to overly dramatize the backstories and histories of the soldiers they focus on in films, Foxhole does the opposite and instead highlights the theater of war itself.

Focusing on 36 hours of three separate wars: The American Civil War, World War I, and Iraq, writer/director Jack Fessenden showcases just how unique war can be while waiting in a foxhole for the action to happen. Using the same actors for each time period, Fessenden helps breed familiarity with the characters, even if they are different in each subsequent war. The one theme that is prevalent throughout the 95-minutes of Foxhole is that even in the calm before the storm, soldiers have to think on their feet as one bad decision could cost them their lives.

The first time period in Foxhole is during the American Civil War. As a group of union soldiers are waiting for a Confederate offensive in a foxhole, they come across a wounded African American Union soldier. Unlike the other two wars covered in Foxhole, the Civil War was about race and slavery. Even though these Union Soldiers are literally fighting the rebels to dismantle the institution of slavery, that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own prejudices. Should they abandon their post to save a black soldier? At least one of the soldiers drops a few n-bombs and isn’t 100% good with saving the young, wounded soldier because he’s black, even questions if he’s truly a free man or possibly a runaway slave. In addition, the wounded soldier gives them intel that a massive Confederate troop buildup is coming their way, and it’s only a handful of them defending the position. Is this war even worth it?

The second war covered in Foxhole is World War I as a group of American troops are holed up in another foxhole. This time they have come across a German soldier and take him prisoner. Here, the soldiers have a debate over ethics in a time of war. The German soldier is the enemy, but is he really? He’s fighting for what he believes is just, the same as they are. Should they treat him as a prisoner and give him compassion since he willingly surrendered, or should they execute him out of the fear that he would slit their throats the first moment he gets? The moral authority of the group states that they are Americans, and will set an example and not be as ruthless as their enemies might possibly be. But will that be good for them, or could it bite back at them?

While the first two timelines focus on the ethics of war, the third one in Foxhole is just about survival. Taking place during the Iraq war, a group of soldiers are in a Humvee, which replaces the traditional foxhole they remain in as times have changed, when they come under fire from insurgents. The theme for the third act is about taking care of your brothers in arms. One by one, bullets graze different soldiers holed up in the Humvee and they must decide whether to abandon the vehicle for the open terrain, but in doing so they would be forced to leave behind their fellow soldiers too injured to move. It is one of the most heartbreaking of the stories because the stakes are incredibly high for the soldiers trapped by enemy fire and they might not make it out of it.

While Foxhole is an ambitious film, it is constrained by its budget. Each time period in the film is limited to one location that it almost feels like this would have been better served as a play in a theater. It would still capture the drama and powerful dialogue without having to be hampered down by being in one location. Director Jack Fessenden also makes an interesting artistic choice as he makes the American Civil War in full color, while World Ward I is filmed completely in black and white. It does showcase the coldness of the first World War, but it doesn’t make much sense from a display perspective, especially if the film showcases an older war in full color.

Foxhole also displays the progress made in America through its treatment of soldiers that are women and people of color. In the Civil War period, black soldiers were up for debate whether they would receive medical care, even though they were literally fighting for their freedom, they were still second-class citizens as best, and property at worst. In the World War I scenes, the black soldier wasn’t even allowed to have a gun on the battlefield. However, during the Iraq war, the same black soldier is the leader of the platoon, and a woman is the Humvee driver. Foxhole slyly showcases that progress has been made in the military, and when the military moves forward, so does the country. Towards the end of the film, there is some smart editing to tie all the different timelines together. I haven’t seen a great use of combining themes across timelines in such a poetic way like this since the ending of Cloud Atlas, and that’s not bad for a second-time director.

Kino Zeit

—Bianka-Isabell Scharmann, September 2021

(translation by Google Translate)

THE PRESERVATION OF HUMANITY

A meadow traversed by ditches in the fog, a mud hole fenced in by barbed wire at night, a humvee rolling under a rolling sun, three theaters of war, three “foxholes”: the American Civil War, World War I and one of the desert wars of the past 20 years are fast (Iraq or Afghanistan are almost irrelevant) identified, it’s about America. These three scenes become arenas for questions of moral principle.

Since the 1910s at the latest, war has been part of the history of film in the form of news, as a documentary film or as narrative mass spectacle. While the heroization of the winners is part of the fixed repertoire – often of American color – there are also anti-war films or satires again and again. I’m thinking of Stanley Kubrick’s Paths to Fame or Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Now Jack Fessenden, screenwriter, director and also responsible for editing and music, a newcomer – and war films are expensive because of the crowd scenes, the locations to be re-enacted. You can tell from the film that Foxhole was produced on a budget: the cast is small, the special effects simple. But it is precisely this reduction that makes the economic decisions aesthetically interesting and Foxhole a focused, intelligent and thoughtful film. Reduced to a technical spectacle, something emerges that is overlooked or neglected in all the explosive spectacle: that wars demand everything morally, ethically, and humanly from the actors in the field.

Foxhole’s means of choice is to turn concrete moral conflicts into a dump for larger political issues. Do the white soldiers help a wounded African American who, when the war is over, “will probably have it better than before?” Do the Americans shoot a German spy on the spot, a de facto execution – a war crime – or do they take him prisoner? Will fire open on civilians who have come to collect, mourn, and bury their dead? All these concrete questions arise in the discussion between the members of the groups on the question of the meaninglessness or meaninglessness of their own actions. “What are you fighting for?” The black soldier is asked in the First World War. “For the same thing as you: democracy.” In the war of positions, where enemies still clash in their humanity, personal interaction is possible in order to recognize one another, in the last episode the enemy – the one outside – remains invisible. “Why the hell are we still out here?” The answer “orders” replaces the conviction that we are fighting for something with the simple execution of actions. And so the moral undermining of American politics becomes visible in all its clarity.

NWZ NordWest Zeitung

—Sebastian Friedhoff, September 17, 2021

(translation by Google Translate)

Oldenburg – powerlessness, inner turmoil, despair, fear and the question of the meaningfulness of their actions: the viewer in the film “Foxhole” is very close to the emotions and thoughts of American soldiers. day celebrates its world premiere at the 28th Oldenburg Film Festival.

The US independent work (95 minutes) by director Jack Fessenden, who was only 19 when it was shot in 2019, accompanies three small groups of soldiers in the American Civil War, World War I (black and white) and Iraq. “Foxhole” pulls the viewer right into the action. The war drama / anti-war film, concentrated /

A narrative thread from “Foxhole” takes place in the Iraqi desert.

The consequences of the decisions that the US soldiers have to make weigh heavily, e.g. when it comes to the question of how to deal with a prisoner. Excessive demands, fear of death, mistrust, questions of morality and attitude, the unpredictability of the moment – all this is the subject of “Foxhole”. It is also interesting that in the three Chapters / episodes of the film the same actors are used, and thereby demonstrate a great variability in their representations.

What the life of the soldiers looked like before the war, what makes them tick as a private person, does not play a major role here, it is the emotional impact of the moment that counts. It may not always be easy to identify with individual characters, but “Foxhole” has a pull. It’s an amazingly mature and reflective film for such a young director.

“Foxhole” celebrates its world premiere this Friday, September 17th, at the Oldenburger Filmfest. The film will be shown in its original sound (English) at Casablanca at 9:30 pm. It will also run on Saturday, September 18, 2 pm, in the city museum.

Instead of a sprawling plot with a variety of visual values ​​and scene changes, he focuses on the tense emotional world of the soldiers, e.g. in the trench enclosed by a smoke screen or in a humvee that drives through the Iraqi desert under the glaring sun. Again and again with close-up

Men and close-ups worked, longer shots, quiet moments in which the soldiers’ gazes tell from their inner life.

The permanent threat situation creates anxiety, especially since the enemy is mostly invisible. Suddenly shots fall out of nowhere. Chaos breaks out. The war is within reach.

The Scuttlebutt Show

—Iraq Veteran reviews Foxhole, May 13 2022


American Cinematographer

Iain Marcks May 2022

Digging Into Foxhole

Cinematographer Collin Brazie deploys large-scope photography on a small scale for director Jack Fessenden’s sophomore feature.

Of all the low-budget, high-concept ideas an independent filmmaker could take on — the chamber play, the boxing film, the cabin in the woods — the war film can be the most challenging because of the immense amount of resources — costumes, sets, props, special and visual effects, sound design and on-screen action — needed to bring such a story believably to life. With Foxhole, independent feature director Jack Fessenden achieves a significant level of believability thanks to the contributions of the aforementioned departments and cinematographer Collin Brazie.

Foxhole is composed of three stories, each set during a different conflict: the American Civil War, in 1864; World War I, in 1917; and the Iraq War, in 2004. Each takes place in a confined space — a foxhole in the first two segments and a Humvee in the last — where a different group of American soldiers (all with one exception played by the same actors) must navigate the tenebrous moral issues around killing the complete strangers who are trying to kill them. By constraining almost all of the action to one small location for each segment, the filmmakers were able to extend more of their modest budget toward other departments, including camera.

According to Fessenden, Brazie joined the production a mere 10 days before the shoot and hit the ground running. “We quickly found our rapport as we made our way through the script,” says the director. “On set, Collin was always two steps ahead, plotting how we would make our days, which sometimes called for as many as 25 setups. A highlight of our collaboration was the pass-off: a camera move that would be impossible to make with a single operator; Collin would start the shot, then he’d pass me the camera and I’d finish it off.”

“With indie films there are always budget, time and crew constraints,” says Brazie, who met with AC in New York City to discuss the lenses, lighting and visual language of Foxhole. “But our constraints led to interesting ideas.”

Inside + Out Upstate NY

Sept 2021

HOLLYWOOD ON THE HUDSON
With Jack Fessenden, Film Director
Hosted by Meira Blaustein, Co-Founder, Executive & Artistic Director Woodstock Film Festival

Writer-director-actor-composer Jack Fessenden was born into the film industry, frequently visiting the indie-horror sets of his father, Larry Fessenden. He made his first feature film, Stray Bullets when he was just 15 years old and still in high school, causing Indiewire to name him one of “11 Filmmakers 30 or Under You Need to Know.” He most recently produced and directed Foxhole which will have its U.S. Premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival.  He is currently a student at Wesleyan University.

As part of our Hollywood on the Hudson series, we sat down with Jack Fessenden and Woodstock Film Festival Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Meira Blaustein, to discuss the draw of, and rebellion against, filmmaking in the digital age, what it was like to grow up surrounded by the film industry, and the real-life family story that inspired Foxhole, which was shot here in Woodstock, NY.

Meira Blaustein: I know that you grew up in a film family. Your father is a filmmaker, your mother is a stop motion animator. Can you talk a little bit about growing into the film world? And when did you move from watching films to wanting to make movies?

Jack Fessenden: I started making movies when I was seven or eight years old. My dad and I, and my friends would run around with a point-and-shoot handy cam.

Meira Blaustein: Can you tell me a little bit about what made you interested in filmmaking rather than film watching?

Jack Fessenden: Well, I grew up visiting the sets that my parents were working on– these were usually horror movies produced by my dad. And earlier on, my mom was working as a production designer, art director, and always, you know, serving the movie in some way or other. My dad was running the show from behind the camera or acting, so I grew up visiting these movie sets like Stake Land, which was shot here in the Hudson Valley, and I grew accustomed to being on set. I remember learning what a DP was, and why the director wasn’t the one pushing record on the camera. That interested me because I always loved shooting or playing around with cameras. And so, spending time on those sets was very influential, because they really felt like a family affair with small crews and intimate sets. And they were lots of fun for me. I was just a little kid that got to run around because I was the producer’s kid.

Around age seven or eight, I started to make my own little movies with a point-and-shoot still camera. I’d go out with my friends. And we had Nerf guns or foam swords that we would play with, running around in the woods. And I made lots of shorts that way. When I was 12, or 13, it occurred to me that I really cared about this more than just a form of play. It started to become a passion and I got more into scripting the stories instead of just running out and doing it on a whim. I made my first short film, Riding Shotgun, with my friend Alex Hoffman. That showed at the Woodstock Film Festival, but it was a very long short. It’s a zombie-buddy movie, you probably remember it. A 32-minute short film, which is very bloated for a short, and I remember you told me you didn’t think it will be able to play at the festival, it’s just too long. I was crestfallen. But nonetheless, you came to my screening and said, “Well, we have to find a way to play this! So, you put it before a feature, Birth of the Living Dead, a documentary about Night of the Living Dead. That was 2013, and my first taste of having a real audience sitting in the theater. Luckily it was packed, and while the seats were filled for another film, they were all-genre lovers. And once I got the taste of showing the movie that I’d made to an audience, I wanted more. So, I kept making shorts all throughout my middle school and high school years. In my first year of high school, I shot Stray Bullets. So that was the trajectory. It really turned from a form of play when I was a kid with my parents helping, into a real working passion. At age 13, I knew this is what I do.

Meira Blaustein: Jack, as a young person who has been working in film now for quite some time, you now go to college, where I’m sure your friends and colleagues are making films. You must have your own point of view of not only where filmmaking stands now, but where it’s going. Talk a little bit about this.

Jack Fessenden: Well, I certainly feel like I grew up in a time when digital filmmaking made everything so much more accessible. I mean, I was able, when I was 12 and 13, to be shooting on DSLRs that looked fantastic. And with the advent of digital cameras that were cheap, and looked great in low light, you could make anything. Movies started to look really good that was made for very little money, on digital. That’s the world I grew up in, and most of my peers grew up making movies like that.

I go to Wesleyan University in Connecticut. The film studies program there is primarily a studies program with theory and lots of watching. But towards the end, you get to shoot on black and white 16, and then you shoot a thesis in color, which is what I’m about to do this Fall. I think there’s actually an aura among the filmmakers there, that is more rebellious against the digital age. We all edit on these old Steenbeck machines, which is, of course, how it was done until the 80s or 90s. A lot of us react against some of the trends in digital filmmaking–or streaming where everything goes straight to streaming. We grew up in love with going to the movies! I feel like the people that are making the decisions of day and date releases; like Dune, the biggest action epic of the year, is going to be on our phones the same day it’s in the theater–I think that’s appalling. People in my generation are upset that this is the direction cinema is going. To me, it seems the people making these choices are older people who think this is what people want, everything at their fingertips. Whereas really, the people who like watching movies my age, I mean everyone I know, would rather go to the theater. That’s the feeling I get from being at Wesleyan surrounded by “film kids” as they’re called. Of course, things being accessible all over the place is a positive thing. I always try to go to the movie theater whenever I can, but it’s also nice to be able to go on my TV. As far as the future of the movie industry? There are always going to be good movies. People are always going to be making their art no matter when they were born or where. So, I think that the state of the movie industry is okay.

Meira Blaustein: Can you talk a little bit about Foxhole which is going to have its U.S. premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival. It’s a very interesting and ambitious film that was shot in one place, but the span of it is huge. Can you talk a little bit about where the idea come from and the whole production aspect?

Jack Fessenden: The seed of that movie was a story that I heard from my grandfather’s friend who he served with in World War II. This guy named Morton was sheltering from artillery fire in a small foxhole in the Battle of the Bulge. And in jumps a German soldier, looking to also shelter from artillery fire in this hole. They draw their weapons but end up spending the entire night together because they’re just trying to survive. And of course, the German can speak English, so they talk and find they have a lot in common. This is all they have at that moment, so they form this bond. And then as the story goes; at dawn, they part ways. I think the American might have turned him in as a prisoner but I’m not sure. Years later in America, Morton, is in a convenience store in upstate New York and he’s feeling like this guy in a suit is following him. And he finally turns around and asks, “Who are you”? And they have this moment of recognition. It’s the German soldier. He tracked him down because he remembered him from that night. Turns out the soldier immigrated to the United States to be a professor or something. The two remained friends for the rest of their life. I heard that story around the time my grandpa passed away when I was like, 14, and I knew that I had to make that into a movie. But of course, that seemed like a short film, two guys in a hole with a little epilogue of their meeting, and I was going to make it with my friend who spoke German. It was just going to be one of my short films. And then Stray Bullets came along. When I was finishing that movie, around age 16, I turned to Foxhole and I thought, well, I want to make another feature, this seems like the track I’m on now. I’m feeling ambitious, I’m ready.

I love war history, but I didn’t want to focus on one period. What if I told a similar story three different times, in different time periods using the same actors, the same characters, but just transplanted them from one time in place to the next. That was the structure I came up with — a three-act anthology that has since become more of a continuous film. I started writing the scripts for Foxhole when I was in high school and shot it the summer after my first year in college 2019 and finished it in January this year. So, it’s been a long process for me. I see many different versions of myself reflected in the film.

Foxhole, we shot it up here, right in that field in Woodstock in the Hudson Valley. The original seed of the film, the soul of the movie, has remained the same for these five years. I had an amazing cast; they really brought the film to life. I mean, it’s a lot of sitting in a hole. That’s the whole movie, so I needed good actors and they were fantastic, found by our casting director, Lois Drabkin. We dug a hole out in that field. We put up a big tent because I was determined to create a controlled environment where we can have lights and atmosphere fog. One of the wars is set in a thick fog which turned out to be a real ordeal both production and post-production, rotoscoping and all this kind of thing. But we shot all three periods in that tent. And then I edited the film on my laptop in my dorm room at Wesleyan and I started to compose the music. I have always composed the scores to my films because my dad used to tell me you can’t use copyrighted music, that’s a bad habit to get into, so I just did it myself. This one proved to be a lot harder because I wanted something more traditionally orchestral. Usually, my scores have been ambient moody stuff but this one warranted a bit more of a traditional orchestral approach. It was a lot to undertake for me, you know, doing string arrangements and a whole feature’s worth of music. And luckily for me, COVID hit, and I had all this time. I was editing it on my laptop at Wesleyan when we heard that we’re all going home for COVID. The whole post-production process sort of exploded and we had no idea when this was going to be finished. There were no deadlines anymore. It was a mixed blessing. I had a lot more time to write the music and to work on the sound, and everyone was kind of like we need work, and, you know, the whole crew is local. Finally, in January, almost a year after I thought it would have been done, I finished it. And I think the movie ultimately benefited from that extra time. So now I’m excited to be showing it at the Woodstock Film Festival, coming back to Woodstock, which is always very fun. And yeah, looking forward to having the whole crew and cast there.


FROM THE DIRECTOR

I grew up with a fascination for war movies. It was never the violence or action that did it for me, but the quieter moments when characters had to grapple with their predicament. In these combat situations – or how they’re depicted in film, rather – the veil is down, the truth closer to earth. Characters are fully present, and as the filmmaker you can cut right through to the big themes. In hindsight, being an only child, I think the brotherly camaraderie was a welcome fantasy for me.

photo by Francesco Camuffo

I find myself saying “In hindsight” a lot with regards to Foxhole. I conceived of the film when I was 15, just after wrapping production on my first feature, and I developed the story throughout high school. I’m 21 now, and I see the world a lot differently than I did then. Foxhole captures the aspirational naivete of a teenage boy grappling with the big themes that had just entered his orbit, that he craved to experience firsthand (little did he know he was experiencing them every day; the stakes were just lower). At my current age I don’t think I would be brave enough to make Foxhole. It reaches at a less literal, more allegorical form of storytelling that seems lost on today’s swaths of ‘content’. I firmly believe, however, that these kinds of stories are crucial to repairing our national identity because they appeal to our shared humanity.

FOXHOLE follows a group of five soldiers through three different time periods as they grapple with questions of morality and futility in and an increasingly volatile combat situation. As time shifts, the questions they face remain the same, but answers seem further from grasp. The film depicts classic caricatures – the sage, the warrior, the coward, the protector – and seeks to empathize with each perspective, while also viewing them through the critical lens of outsiders: an African American soldier who begins as a voiceless catalyst for the film’s conflict and over time emerges as the group’s leader, and a German soldier who faces execution.

The only ‘enemy’ depicted in the film is the one that rears its ugly head in characters’ who give in to fear.
The film’s three-part structure explores how personality traits are externalized in different historical contexts. Bigotry is refuge for the coward in the old wars, a protective instinct when radicalized costs lives, and principles of honor and integrity are overtaken by the most human impulse of all: survival. Karma is at play: how one man acts in one war might affect his luck in the next. But fate and chance are even stronger forces, and they do not choose sides. Foxhole’s soldiers each try to do the right thing, yet fall short because of a confluence of their own shortcomings and forces out of their control. Unsatisfied with this this bleak reality, Foxhole seeks to uplift and memorialize their last moments through memories and visions that will resonate beyond their time and remind us that their efforts may not have been in vain.

—Jack Fessenden, August 2021

FOXHOLE’s visual aesthetic evolves throughout the film to reflect the loss of purpose and increased volatility of the soldiers’ situation. The Civil War will have a rich, saturated look, and a camera that puts a degree of distance between the audience and the characters; World War I, shot in black & white, will be starker; Iraq will utilize wide lenses, zooms, and hand held camera to match the claustrophobia and dread of the doomed soldiers trapped in the HUMVEE. The first two segments – the Civil War and World War I – will be shot on anamorphic lenses, imbuing classic filmic beauty, while Iraq will be shot on standard cinema glass for an un-romanticized look. Camera style and color pallet will assert a distance between past and present, while the narrative puts that distance into question.

FOXHOLE was inspired by a story my grandfather told me about his comrade’s experience at the Battle of the Bulge. My grandfather’s friend, Morton, was huddled alone in a foxhole at night, taking shelter from artillery fire, when a German soldier jumped in beside him. Instead of attacking each other, the two men spoke all night, formed a bond, and parted ways at dawn. After the war, in a grocery store back home, Morton noticed a man following him. He turned to confront him and recognized him instantly: it was the German. He had since moved to the U.S. to work as a teacher. He and Morton remained friends for life. As soon as I heard this story I knew I needed to find a way to tell it. That is how FOXHOLE began, and it has since become much more.”

—Jack Fessenden, during pre-production 2.11.19



JAMES LE GROS (Wilson) – A Minnesota native, he has appeared in some of the most celebrated American independent films of the last two decades, including DRUGSTORE COWBOY, LIVING IN OBLIVION, SAFE, and THE MYTH OF FINGERPRINTS; he has appeared in such genre fare as NEAR DARK, PHANTASM II, THE LAST WINTER, and ZODIAK. Le Gros appeared on Showtime’s Sleeper Cell and on Law & Order. He was also a cast member on the television show Ally McBeal and guest starred on ER, Roseanne, Punky Brewster, The Outer Limits (new series), Friends and the NBC series Mercy.

MOTELL GYN FOSTER (Jackson) – Is an actor, known for ANYA, The God Committee and Marriage Story(2019).

CODY KOSTRO (Clark) – Is an actor, known for Collective: Unconscious (2016), Worst Friends (2014) and City on a Hill (2019).

ANGUS O’BRIEN (Conrad) –  Is an actor, known for The Kitchen (2019), Foxhole (2020) and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999).

ALEX HURT (Morton) – Is an actor, known for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999), Cut Shoot Kill(2017) and The River Why (2010).

ANDI MATICHAK (Gale) – Is an American actress. She has appeared in such television series as 666 Park Avenue, Orange Is the New Black and Blue Bloods. She stars as Allyson Nelson in the horror film Halloween (2018), a direct sequel to the 1978 original film of the same name. Matichak was born in Framingham, Massachusetts, but raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. She attended St. Francis High School in Wheaton, Illinois. During a summer while still in high school, Matichak worked as a model in Greece, where she met a talent agent who encouraged her to act. After returning to Chicago, she began taking acting classes.Matichak graduated from St. Francis High School one year early and forewent a full-ride soccer scholarship to attend the University of South Florida, instead moving to New York City to pursue modeling and acting. Matichak has made guest appearances in numerous television series, such as 666 Park Avenue, Orange Is the New Black, Underground, and Blue Bloods. In 2015, she made her feature film debut in an uncredited role in the Victoria Justice-starring film Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List.

ALEX BREAUX (The German) – He started his college career at Harvard University where he was a wide receiver/punt returner for Harvard’s varsity football team and two-time Ivy League champion. While still at Harvard, Breaux auditioned and was accepted into the Drama Division at The Juilliard School in New York City. In addition to acting, Breaux writes for film, television, and theatre.

ASA SPURLOCK (Confederate Soldier) – Actively pursues an extensive range of interests, with art always at the core of his life. Asa serves as the Vice President for Onteora’s Student Government and is a co-representative to the District Board of Education. He is part of Harvard Model Congress and a founding member of Onteora’s Mock Trial team and Philosophy Club. Asa is an apprentice to David Wiebe, a concert violin maker, helping to make stringed instruments for clients around the world. At the same time, he built his own concert-quality violin and is currently building his own cello. Asa is part of New Genesis Productions, a Shakespearean theatre company with which he has performed in over 13 plays. This spring, he played the lead role in Richard III for his final production with the company. Asa has also performed in a number of movies produced by an independent film company—FessyPix, including ALL FOR ONE (2014), and RIDING SHOTGUN (2013). Asa will continue his education at Wesleyan University. 



JACK FESSENDEN, Writer/Director/Editor/Producer – Jack Fessenden grew up on the sets of Glass Eye Pix productions, his father’s indie-horror production company, and helping his mom in her stop-motion animation studio. Inspired by the creativity that surrounded him, Jack began to make little shorts with his friends at age seven. It was not until he was 13, however, that he started taking film more seriously as he began to write his first script, “Riding Shotgun”. Less than a year later, the film premiered at the 2013 Woodstock Film Festival. ‘Riding Shotgun’ was followed by “All For One”, “The Adults”, and “Pranks”, the latter two premiering at Woodstock as well. Jack’s films have used different genres to explore the complications of friendship in the face of adversity. Jack spends a lot of his time in Upstate New York, the setting of many of his films, and where many of his collaborators reside. He finished his first feature “Stray Bullets” in April 2016 at age 16.

Jack firmly believes it is essential to understand all aspects of the filmmaking process, which is why he writes, directs, edits, produces, composes, and acts in almost all of his movies. That being said, he looks forward to alleviating some of those responsibilities when he is older so he can focus on directing, his true passion. Most of all, Jack is very grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to make films at such a young age, and can only hope he is making the most of his good fortune.

LARRY FESSENDEN, Producer – Is the director of the art-horror films NO TELLING, HABIT, WENDIGO, THE LAST WINTER, BENEATH, and DEPRAVED. He is a producer on dozens of projects in and out of the horror genre including STAKE LAND, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, I SELL THE DEAD, THE COMEDY, and WENDY AND LUCY as well as the audio series TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE, created with the mad Irishman Glenn McQuaid. Fessenden has operated Glass Eye Pix since 1985 with the mission of supporting individual voices in the arts.

JAMES FELIX McKENNEY, Producer – Jim McKenney was born in Connecticut and raised in Maine. He spent much of the 1990’s working in Boston underground theatre with the House of Borax and Acme Theatr groups, as well as with their various offshoots, in many capacities: actor, stagehand, playwright, director and doorman. In 1995, he founded MonsterPants, then the publisher of underground comic books. Three issues of COW were published, for which McKenney was co-editor and publisher, contributing writer and occasional artist. Also from MonsterPants Comics was a special edition of PSYCHONAUT by Serbian artist, Aleksandar Zograf. McKenney lived in Los Angeles from 1996 – 2000 where he performed writing chores on numerous projects, including: comic books, music videos, internet magazines and motion pictures. After a number of feature film projects fell through at crucial points in their development, McKenney decided to take matters into his own hands and make his own movie, the tongue-in-cheek bloodfest: CANNIBALLISTIC! After returning to the East Coast, McKenney continued to work on independent films until he began his relationship with Larry Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix in 2002. McKenney has been a collaborator on several Glass Eye projects, including THE LAST WINTER and THE WENDIGO animated series. He is the Associate Producer on the ScareFlix film series which includes director Ti West’s THE ROOST and TRIGGER MAN. McKenney is responsible for writing and directing the first film in the line, the quirky supernatural drama THE OFF SEASON, as well as the retro-styled killer robot film AUTOMATONS. Both are currently available on DVD. 2010 brought the debut of McKenney’s satire of Christian “scare” films, SATAN HATES YOU, which is now available on DVD and won Best Feature at the Coney Island Film Festival. In 2012, James hosted the weekly internet radio show “The MonsterPants Are On!” on Cult Radio-A-Go-Go. That year also saw the release of the creature feature HYPOTHERMIA starring Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead), which McKenney wrote and directed for Glass Eye Pix and Dark Sky Films. McKenney currently lives in New York with his longtime girlfriend Lisa where he continues to make films, host the Before Geeks Were Cool podcast and create handmade toys assisted by his cats Oscar, Oliver, Gomez & Mothra and dogs Chumley, Nacho, Sanchez & Doomsday.

J. CHRISTIAN INGVORDSEN, Producer – Since 1982 J. Christian Ingvordsen has written, produced and directed 25 feature films which have been released domestically and internationally through HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures and more. Ingvordsen’s productions have starred Robert Mitchum, Shelly Winters, Telly Savalas, and Kathy Ireland amongst others. As a director, Ingvordsen has worked with Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Danny Aiello, Martin Kove, Dan Haggerty, Lance Henriksen, Robert Davi, Billy Drago and many others.

ADAM SCHERR, Producer – Co-founder of Nous Entertainment where he drives the creative vision for the production company and its film and storytelling projects. Adam leads the development of strategic and philanthropic partnerships for the company, helping to align entertainment with impact. His diverse background in business management, media relations, social causes, film and theater brings a cross-disciplined approach to managing Nous Entertainment and its mission.

Adam is the co-writer, director and producer of “Proud Mary,” a biographical film currently in pre-production. He is also serving as producer of the films “Griffin’s Ghost,” and “Judas Horse,” which is based on a true story. Adam is also the co-creator of the television series, “Savage Manor,” which is currently in development.

Throughout his career, Adam has successfully directed teams and organizations to bring complex topics and stories to life. As a National Media Director for a Pulitzer Prize-winning organization, Adam led a team of 60 health writers helping them navigate the wild west of health journalism and editorial comment for the owner of The Christian Science Monitor.

He has extensive experience facilitating business culture turnarounds for a client roster that includes an international church, film-makers and professionals across many industries. Among his most prized accomplishments is founding Infinitee Kids Corp., a high-end children’s apparel line carried by Barneys, FAO Schwarz and hundreds of retailers across the U.S., Canada and Europe.

Adam lives in New Jersey with his wife, two boys and dogs.

COLLIN BRAZIE, Cinematographer –





 
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