By Debbie Gregory.
It’s not every day that a budding filmmaker gets a hand up from George Lucas. But that’s exactly what happened to Army Capt. Henry Hughes, who was mentored by Lucas on his documentary short film “Day One.”
If that wasn’t enough of a dream come true, the film was nominated for an Oscar at the 88th Academy Awards.
“He’s one of the greatest storytellers of our time,” Hughes said of Lucas. “How could you not aspire to be like that, or to meet that person and glean as much as you can?”
The two teamed up as a part of the American Corporate Partner’s National Mentoring Program. Hughes earned a MFA in Directing at the American Film Institute.
“Day One” was inspired by a true story, and depicts a new translator’s first day accompanying a U.S. Army unit as it searches for a local terrorist.
Feda, a 30-year-old Afghan American woman pushed aside by her conservative community for being divorced with no kids, uses her one marketable skill as a bilingual immigrant, and returns to her birthplace as an interpreter for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. On her first day on the job, she must help the pregnant wife of an IED maker deliver a baby. As she quickly discovers, her job will bring up brutal complexities as gender and religious barriers emerge with lives hanging in the balance.
Although Day One lost the Short Film (Live Action) category to Stutterer, the film has won the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) U.S. Student Film Award, a college Emmy and a Student Oscar.
Of his muse and main character, Hughes said, “Her strength provided a light strong enough to cut through the fog of war. She is so many things: American, Muslim, female, combat veteran.”
Lucas was grateful for the opportunity to mentor.
“These guys are heroes, we need to help them,” said Lucas, who taught Hughes how to write the script, and his team at Lucasfilm taught him how to make the movie. “Your training in the military is exactly the training you need.”