Robert West, Working Films; Tony Hardmon and Rachel Libert, filmmakers; Master Sgt Jerry Ensminger at Cucalorus.

On Saturday, November 12, Semper Fi: Always Faithful screened at a “sold out” crowd at our local and hip indie film fest Cucalorus.

The next day, Sunday, November 13, Working Films Robert West and filmmakers Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon took Semper Fi back home to Jacksonville, NC and Camp Lejeune for its first non-festival premiere. The film tells the story of retired Marine Jerry Ensminger’s fight for justice on behalf of U.S. soldiers and their families exposed to toxic drinking water at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, including detailed and important information about the water situation and how it affects current and former residents and employees.

After the film screening, over 120 audience members stayed for 90 minutes for a conversation with the filmmakers and Master Sgt. Ensminger; Hope Hodge, the military reporter from the Jacksonville Daily News; and David Andrews, an expert from the Environmental Working Group. Incredibly moving testimony from audience members reflected the hurt in this community, with folks sharing personal stories of their own cancers and the loss of their children or parents to rare cancers and illnesses. There were tears and anger, and solidarity in the room over their outrage at Camp Lejeune.

Jacksonville was the first stop on a planned North and South Carolina tour by Working Films and the filmmakers, with a potential national tour of other toxic military sites in 2012. And, as promised to the audience on Sunday, we will bring the film back to Jacksonville. It was very clear that this is a community that still needs a lot of answers and a conduit for collective action.

It was an amazing weekend, and then Semper Fi got great news – shortlisted for feature documentary for the Academy Awards 2012. Congratulations to the filmmakers and Chicken & Egg Pictures, executive producers.

Read about the screening in the Jacksonville Daily News here.

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