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Mason City grad's veteran-themed documentary premieres Tuesday
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Mason City grad's veteran-themed documentary premieres Tuesday

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Moul

"Surviving Home," a documentary by Matthew Moul, a 1991 Mason City High School graduate, and his wife, Jillian, will premiere Tuesday on television in honor of Veterans Day.

A severely injured Iraq War veteran overcomes his lost sense of identity through perseverance and humor by becoming a stand-up comedian to help heal his physical and emotional wounds of war.

A Vietnam War veteran becomes a Buddhist monk in an effort to come to terms with the carnage and dehumanization of combat.

A female Iraq War veteran fights through the effects of military sexual trauma and post-traumatic stress by filing a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. government with the hope of securing spousal benefits for same-sex couples.

A World War II veteran, who waited years to receive military benefits, spends time helping others with the support of a young, civically minded Marine Corps veteran looking out for him.

Those are the stories shared in a Mason City native’s documentary that will premiere nationwide on Tuesday.

“Surviving Home,” a film directed, produced and edited by 1991 Mason City High School graduate Matthew Moul and his wife, Jillian, will broadcast at 7 p.m. Tuesday on WORLD Channel and stream on worldchannel.org in honor of Veterans Day.

“If there’s someone out there that could have their trajectory changed and be pointed to a slightly better path by seeing the film, we want to make sure they see it,” said Moul, an Emmy Award-winning film and TV editor, producer and director who now resides in California.

The 85-minute documentary feature film is the culmination of eight years of interviews with veterans from different generations rebuilding their lives after war.

The project, which was almost entirely funded by the Mouls, was prompted by their desire to better understand and appreciate the sacrifices of service members and their families and to share it with others.

“We believed this was something we could do with our own unique backgrounds and our own unique skillsets to effect someone else in the world,” Moul said. “All the years are worth it.”

As independent filmmakers, the Mouls submitted their documentary to film festivals across the country in hopes of garnering the attention of a distributor so the film can reach as many veterans — and civilians — across the country as possible.

And they succeeded.

SURVIVING HOME 11_v02.JPG

"Surviving Home," a documentary by Matthew Moul, a 1991 Mason City High School graduate, and his wife, Jillian, will premiere Tuesday on television in honor of Veterans Day.

In addition to winning Best Documentary Feature at the GI Film Festival, Best Film at the Chicago International Social Change Film Festival and the Audience Award for Best Overall Film at Vail Film Festival, they secured distribution of their film on PBS.

“It was one of the best moments of my life,” Moul said. “Jillian and I did not set out to make ‘Surviving Home’ so we could get recognition or so that we could get acclaim as filmmakers. Our objective and purpose of making the film was to address something we saw in society that we thought could be improved.

“It was one case where filmmaking, storytelling and documentary could improve the lives of individuals out there.”

Today, there are more than 20 million people who’ve served in the U.S. military, but for many, surviving war is just the beginning.

The film uncovers the detrimental gap between military veterans and the civilians they protected, while exposing a culture of silence that prevents many veterans from talking about their experiences of war.

Through the bravery of the men and women who open up their lives and share their stories in “Surviving Home,” audiences are introduced to a diverse community of veterans who’ve discovered inspiring ways not only to survive but also to thrive back home, transforming their lives and continuing their service to others.

“Surviving Home” will conclude the seventh season of “America ReFramed,” an award-winning series from WORLD Channel and American Documentary, Inc. dedicated to showcasing stories from America’s changing landscape.

Moul, the son of Rob and Judy Moul, said growing up in Mason City, the hometown of Meredith Willson, had a big influence on him.

He was in plays at Stebens Children’s Theatre and Mason City High School. He received a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Southern California, then performed in plays and musicals in the Los Angeles Area.

In 2009, Moul was one of seven editors who won Emmys for Outstanding Picture Editing for Reality Programming for their work on “Project Runway” during the Creative Arts Primetime Emmy ceremony.

“I think all those things led me and contributed to where I am now as a storyteller and filmmaker,” he said. “It was an excellent place to grow up.”

In addition to the TV broadcast, “Surviving Home” will also stream on worldchannel.org, amdoc.org and all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and on PBS apps for iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Chromecast.

For more information about “Surviving Home,” visit https://worldchannel.org/episode/arf-surviving-home/, “Surviving Home” Facebook page and the "Surviving Home" Eventbrite page.

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Reach Reporter Ashley Stewart at 641-421-0533. Follow her on Twitter at GGastewart.

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