A young filmmaker described by a film critic as 'the next Steven Spielberg' has made a film about his great-grandfather's battle to survive after escaping an Italian prisoner of war (POW) camp in World War II.
Elliott Hasler, 20, from Brighton, started the process of making ‘WWII – The Long Road Home’ in his early teenage years, having spent a lot of time researching his family history and the camp where his great-grandfather was held captive in the Second World War. He said:
“I was 14 when I started making it and 16 when I finished.
“I researched it online through those ancestry websites to piece together the backbone of the story.”
The feature film, in which the young filmmaker plays the role of his great-grandfather Private Charlie Standing, shines a light on the traumatic journey the soldier took to return to his wife and young son through war-torn Italy. Speaking with BFBS Radio broadcaster Hal Stewart, he said:
“It’s a true story based on my great-grandad's experience in World War Two.
“He was a prisoner of war in Italy and then he escaped and made a 400km long journey across Italy to try and be rescued by the Allies.”
VIDEO: Watch the full length trailer for WWII - The Long Journey Home
During the Second World War, Private Charlie Standing of the Royal Hampshire Regiment was sent to Tunisia and in February 1943, was captured during the brutal Battle Of Sidi Nsir.
He became a prisoner of war in Italy and witnessed unimaginable horrors. After the Italian Armistice was signed, the POWs were given the choice of leaving the camp or waiting inside for allies to rescue them.
Charlie chose the former knowing he was putting himself in a dangerous situation but believing this gave him the best chance of survival.
Thousands of miles from home and his loved ones, Charlie spent 18 months traveling 400 km towards Rome, with many hostile encounters on the way. He said:
“The equivalent of what he walked would be from Brighton to Manchester, so he walked a huge distance and obviously then he’s contending with Germans and the Italian resistance.
“There’s loads of different aspects of the story, it’s very episodic in how it works and the different adventures he has.”
A Bright Future In Films
WWII – The Long Journey Home was just the first stepping stone into the industry for the filmmaker who has since directed four short films – The Isle, Nootau, To Hunt a Tiger and Refuge.
Graham Fuller, a New York editor and film critic, was full of praise and support for Elliott in August 2017 when writing for Culture Trip, an online magazine for curious travellers. He wrote that “a 17-year-old Brit might be the next Steven Spielberg”. Of Elliott's talent, Graham said:
“Aside from Hasler’s ambition, the most exciting aspect of his film is his ability to tell a story visually without over-reliance on talk. Five years from now, he could be a world-beater.”
While studying history at Exeter University, the young director has been filming another independent feature film, “Vindication Swim”, about Mercedes Gleitze, the first British woman to swim the English Channel. The professional swimmer was also able to claim being the first person to swim the Strait of Gibraltar. The film, around the inspirational true story of Mercede’s fight to hold on to her record after a rival attempts to claim the record as her own, is planned to be released in 2022.
The Long Road Home, formerly titled Charlie’s Letters because of the regular correspondence between Elliott’s great-grandfather and his wife and son at home, will be released on digital download on October 26, 2020.