Foxhole

Jack Fessenden (2019 Color)

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 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.

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.

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.



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 –