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Soldier Jack or The Man Who Caught Death in a Sack
Adapted from an Appalachian Jack Tale set in the late 1940s, this tale follows a World War II veteran named Jack who, in return for an act of kindness, receives two magical gifts: a sack that can catch anything and a jar that can show whether a sick person will recover or die. Jack becomes a national hero when he rescues the president's daughter from a serious illness by capturing Death in his magic sack. However, after many years without Death in the world, Jack realizes that he has upset the natural order and releases Death to save humankind from perpetual old age and misery. An excellent discussion-starter on living, aging, and dying.
Kate Weber as the President's daughter and
Mike Heintzman as Jack
(40 min., ages 8-adult)
Reviews of Soldier Jack
"It is bad form to gush over a film. Particularly a children's film. Particularly when it's a folktale. Particularly when words like "appealing," "delightful," and "suitable for audiences of all ages" spring to mind during viewing.
"Soldier Jack, Tom and Mimi Davenport's latest and most ambitious production, might just be the most intelligent children's live-action film since Disney's Old Yeller....It takes a lot of work to make what seems to the viewer a flawless film telling a seamless story. To be honest, most people who make children's films take shortcuts that would never be tolerated by adult audiences. I think photo directors Tom Kaufman and Arnie Sirlin, and editors Marcia Neidley Lynch and Randy Hort have surely examined every frame with a critical eye. The unfailing attention to period details by Rosemary Pardee Holz (costumes) and Doug Ball (sets), and the unusual work of Barbara York and Frank Rogers (makeup) add believability to an unbelievable tale. Music and narration respectively by Bill Mansfield (banjo) and Gary Slemp and Julian Yochum create mood and offer storytelling at its best. An uncredited bluesy-spiritual theme rendered on the piano unifies the action throughout the film and underlines its Appalachian setting. Davenport and personnel have paid care to every aspect of their work, and in doing so have made a film that will engage children with its generous humor and broad sight gags, as well as charm adults with its satisfying performances and high production values."
Gail Munde for Independent Spirit
Awards for Soldier Jack include:
- First Prize: Best live-action film -- International Festival of Childrens' Films.
- First Prize: Best film for young adults -- The New York Film and Video Festival
- First Prize: Best short subject -- The Chicago International Film Festival
- CINE Golden Eagle
- International Film & TV Festival of New York -- First place Children's Shorts
- American Video Conference Awards (AFI) -- First Place Best Short Fiction
- American Library Association -- Notable Film for Young Adults
- American Library Association -- Notable Children's Film
- American Film Festival -- blue ribbon
- Birmingham International Film Festival -- First Place Language Arts
- Houston Film Festival -- First Place Gold Award
- National Educational Film Festival -- Silver Apple in Lit. & Language Arts
- Sinking Creek Film Festival -- Judges Cash Award
- Philadelphia Film Festival -- Silver Medal; Gold medal in Cinematography
- First Prize: Best short fiction -- The American Film Institute and Billboard Magazine