for peace … for freedom … for Canada

Soldiers of Paint

Release Year:         2012
Studio:         First Run Features
Format:         Colour; Dolby; Widescreen; NTSC
Rated:         Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:         1
Running Time:         97 minutes plus bonus
DVD Release Date:         May 21, 2013
Directors:         Doug Gritzmacher, Michael Dechant Jr.
Actors:         Dewayne Convirs, Juan Parke, Ken Moore, Steve Risken, Maureen Armstrong
E:Top Picks Rating:         9/10

First Run Features Write-up:
Soldiers of Paint follows a dramatic battle involving 5,000 people who re-stage the invasion of Normandy, or D-Day, in Oklahoma. Instead of bullets they use paint and it’s any man’s game, which means the Germans could win! And these guys are serious. They spend all year preparing their battle strategies (including finding ways to spy on each other) and on game day they come ready to fight with full-size tanks, airplanes, and bazookas.

The battle takes place each year on a 700-acre piece of land owned by Dewayne Confirs, who takes on this endeavor as a tribute to his grandfather and, ultimately, in support of our veterans. It’s a character-driven story with plenty of action, drama, and humor that is sure to appeal to cineastes, paintball enthusiasts, and military buffs alike.

•    5.1 Audio Option
•    Deleted Scenes: Active duty 101st Airborne troops attending D-Day meet legendary WW2 veteran Jake McNiece (from the “Filthy Thirteen” 101st Airborne unit that fought during D-Day and whose stories inspired the movie The Dirty Dozen); D-Day parade; Officers party; Extra battle footage
•    Promo for Oklahoma D-Day Adventure Park

Jon Ted Wynne Review:
“Winners don’t think. Winners kill Germans.”

This sentiment, voiced by one of the “Allied commanders” in the epic D-Day battle recreated every year in Oklahoma, neatly sums up SOLDIERS OF PAINT. The film draws the viewer into a world that is alternately fascinating, exciting, thrilling, disturbing, intense–and obsessive. The level of commitment from the five thousand or so participants is virtually–to them–life or death. Small wonder that such a jingoistic statement is spoken and understood–in this context.

Of course people don’t really die in this epic game, which is why the comment, though potentially disturbing to anyone who is not tuned in to America’s gun culture, is acceptable. The game is virtually a role-player’s paradise: paintball combat at its most extreme. And most importantly, at the conclusion of the day’s simulated carnage, teams are still able to shake hands and say “wait ’til next year.”

The D-Day event itself came to be as a way for paintball enthusiasts to honour the sacrifices of American and Allied veterans (there are international participants, including some Germans!) While the idea of honouring those who served in real wars by pretending to kill others might seem ludicrous to some, to these men and women it makes perfect sense. By re-enacting at such an intense level, the participants are able to experience something of the chaos and cost veterans of the Normandy Invasion (and other wars) went through. This helps them appreciate and understand those who have gone before. While critics might say you can’t compare a game to the real thing, the level of planning, participation and patriotism these passionate proponents of D-Day Oklahoma bring to the table is about as close as you can get.

The event itself is perfect fodder for a documentary, with plenty of colourful characters and lots of exciting visuals to work with. The paintball combat sequences are genuinely thrilling, and the filmmakers wisely guide the audience through the confusion of battle by adding a blue filter to the footage of the Allies and a red filter for the Germans, with neutral footage in normal colours. Appropriate use of graphics is used to help convey the progress of the battle and various strategies throughout. The camera work and editing are really first class, and the filmmakers lucked out with such a closely contested fight. Scoring and essential rules are explained as needed and this really helps the audience (and the film) stay focused while being caught up in the action. The judges announcing the final scoring gives the film its dramatic pay off–this isn’t the real D-Day invasion, after all, and either team can win. Some years the Germans win and some years the Allies win…

The term “the heat of battle” takes on new meaning when it is reported on the day of the battle that it is already 81 degrees first thing in the morning, with a high of about 98 degrees projected as the day wears on. Clearly, an essential part of this battle (as in any real battle) is the availability of supplies at crucial times: in this case water, air (to power the guns), and ammunition.

If this reviewer has any criticism of this film at all it is the absence of any reference to Canada’s participation in the real D-Day (although a Canadian flag is displayed at one point, indicating that at least one participant in the re-enactment is from up north). There is mention made of Commonwealth soldiers (including an actual regiment re-enacted), but while the British were at Gold and Sword beaches and the Americans were at Utah and Omaha beaches, Canada was smack dab in the middle at Juno Beach. I can understand the film does not purport to re-enact the entire invasion, but it would have been nice (and historically accurate) to mention Canada’s vital contribution to the Normandy landing’s success.

This quibble aside, SOLDIERS OF PAINT is an excellent look into a truly unique event that is indicative of America’s culture and heritage. In the extra features (which include several deleted scenes) there is one sequence where the U.S. flag is lowered to the accompaniment of “Taps” on the trumpet. Organizer Dewayne Confirs follows by saying: “We appreciate you guys remembering all the veterans, and the future ones; whether you like it or not, that’s the way it is.”

One last comment: the film is not close captioned. First Run Features distributes many remarkable and important films that might otherwise not see an audience. It would be helpful if they could include captioning for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.