About the Film

SHORT SYNOPSIS

In Writer-Director Donna Musil's film, BRATS: Our Journey Home, U.S. military brats share intimate memories about their unique childhoods - growing up on military bases around the world, then struggling to fit into an American lifestyle with which they have little in common. Narrated and featuring songs by Kris Kristofferson. Interviews include the late General Norman Schwarzkopf; military brat author Mary Edwards Wertsch, the first to identify brats as a hidden American subculture; and brats of all ages, races, and branches of service.


medium-length synopsis

It's hard to imagine a military brat's childhood. Moving from base to base around the world, they are at home everywhere - and nowhere. There are 2 million children being raised in the military today. An estimated 15 million Americans are former BRATS. They include singers Pink and Lionel Richie, author Suzanne Collins (of the "Hunger Games"), basketball star Shaquille O'Neal and Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III, actors Julianne Moore, Robert Duvall, and Neil Patrick Harris, and many more.

BRATS is the first cinematic glimpse into a global subculture whose journey to adulthood is a high-octane mixture of incredible excitement and enormous pain. Make no mistake - BRATS is not about the U.S. military - it's about their children, who grow up in a paradox that is idealistic and authoritarian, privileged and perilous, supportive and stifling - all at the same time. Their passports say "United States," but they're really citizens of the world.

Singer/songwriter and Air Force brat Kris Kristofferson leads us through the heart of their experiences, sharing intimate memories with fellow brats, including the late General Norman Schwarzkopf and author Mary Edwards Wertsch, whose ground-breaking book, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress, was one of the seminal inspirations for this film. Their stories reveal the peculiar landscape of their childhood, the culture that binds them together, and the power it exerts over their adult lives.

A seven-year work of passion by independent filmmaker Donna Musil, BRATS features rare archival footage, home movies and private photographs from post-war Japan, Germany, and Vietnam.


LONG SYNOPSIS

BRATS: Our Journey Home is the first feature-length documentary, narrated by singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson, about a hidden American subculture - a lost tribe of at least fifteen million people from widely diverse backgrounds, raised on military bases around the world, whose shared experiences have shaped their lives so powerfully, they are forever different from their fellow Americans.

Using archival film sources, home movie footage and provocative first-person interviews, including the late General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, psychotherapist Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, West Point sociologist Dr. Morten Ender, and author Mary Edwards Wertsch, whose ground-breaking book, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress, was one of the seminal inspirations for this film, Writer-Director Donna Musil's BRATS tells the story of children raised under a very unique set of circumstances, including:

  • moving around the world, rarely knowing one's extended family, and losing one's friends, identity, and social status every couple of years;
  • growing up in a patriarchy constantly engaging in or preparing for war;
  • living on a series of "hometown" military bases with no permanent members, often in the middle of foreign countries;
  • growing up in diverse neighborhoods and schools 20 years before the civil rights movement took hold in America;
  • living a near socialistic existence under an authoritative structure that espouses democracy;
  • suffering the prolonged absence of one's father (or more recently, one's mother or both);
  • living overseas on the edge of history-in-the-making - attending the Nuremberg Trials, studying in the shadows of Dachau and Hiroshima, and being exposed to art, history, and culture most American children only read about.

This unusual combination of experiences has created a cultural identity so powerful, it crosses all lines of race, gender, age, and class. Most brats, however, don't even know they belong to a separate subculture - they just feel "different" somehow, from their fellow Americans. Then the Internet surfaced, enabling many to reconnect, reunite, and compare notes.

The similarities they've discovered are astounding - from seemingly innocuous personality quirks to major values, choices, expectations about life. Some of these psychological legacies are inspiring, others bittersweet. But for many, reconnecting with their fellow brats and recognizing their unique heritage has been the first time they've felt like they belonged, the first "hometown" they've ever known - each other.

As author and Marine Corps brat Pat Conroy says so eloquently in his introduction to Mary Wertsch's book:

I thought I was singular in all this, one of a kind. From Mary's book I discover that I speak in the multitongued, deep-throated voice of my tribe. ...[I]t's a language I was not even aware I spoke... a secret family I did not know I had. ... Military brats, my lost tribe, spent their entire youth in service to this country, and no one even knew we were there.