|Tina Sloan and Alan Dale in Happy New Year|
Winner of the Best Director Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, writer and director K. Lorrel Manning puts a human face on the headlines of post-traumatic stress in the character of Marine Staff Sergeant Cole Lewis (Michael Cuomo--also the co-producer of the film) who returns to the U.S. from Afghanistan to face his fiercest battle yet–the struggle between his hope for rehabilitation and his will to live.
Happy New Year shocked audiences and critics at the South-by-Southwest and the Hamptons Film Festivals with its exposure of a system of institutionalized neglect, opening the question of whether rehab is, in some cases, just a euphemism for warehousing our wounded soldiers.
Manning, based in New York and a graduate of Columbia University’s Film Program, created this armed forces version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest not simply to tell the potent story of Cole’s discovery of humanity, compassion and brotherhood among a group of similarly injured soldiers in the psychiatric ward of a remote veterans’ hospital. Manning is too clear-eyed and unsentimental. He understands that Cole’s battles are just beginning even after his fellow vets—survivors of Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East—replace the influence of a brutally demanding Father (Alan Dale, THE O.C., UGLY BETTY, LOST, 24, ENTOURAGE) who punishes any sign of what he takes to be his son’s weakness, self-pity or despair.
Happy New Year was inspired by Nina Berman's award-winning book of photographs, Purple Hearts. Reading the book led Manning and Cuomo to conduct more than 80 one-on-one interviews with combat veterans, their families, and V.A. personnel. Manning came to terms with the intensity of the stories he heard by writing and directing, first, a play, which was produced by New York’s Barrow Group in June 2007 and then a short film adaptation of the play as prelude to this feature film.
For the feature film, Manning and Cuomo attracted an accomplished supporting cast of New York- based theater, television and film actors including J.D. Williams (THE WIRE, OZ), Monique Gabriela Curnen (Contagion, The Dark Knight) and Tina Sloan (best known for her starring role as Nurse Lillian Raines on CBS’s GUIDING LIGHT) who brings to the screen the experience of pride and fear she felt while her own son served as a U.S. Marine Captain in Afghanistan.
Happy New Year also features hand-held combat footage shot Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran, Mike Scotti, star of the critically acclaimed documentary Severe Clear and author of The Blue Cascade. Academy Award-winning Soopum Sohn (Make Yourself at Home) is the Director of Photography.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE http://happynewyearfilm.com/