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‘High Ground’ Soars Above Rest

It seems everything Michael Brown touches turns to gold. His latest film,‘High Ground’,  which premiered at the Boulder International Film Festival to a sold-out crowd on Saturday night,  is no exception. Brown teamed up with Don Hahn (Oscar-nominated producer of the Lion King), to create a moving account of the tumultuous and triumphant journey taken by 11 military veterans as they attempt to reach the top of Lobuche, a giant Himalayan peak that soars to 20,075 feet.

High Ground premiered at the Boulder International Film Festival on Saturday night.

One veteran on the team is blind and three have lost limbs, but the physical challenges faced by this team are only a fraction of the story.  Brown and Hahn artfully and gracefully weave the adventure of the climb with the stark realities of combat to create an incredibly honest and gritty portrayal of what it’s like to serve our country and come back from war.  As Brown told me in an interview before the premiere, “In the current era there is nothing wonderful about coming home from war. Many veterans are returning at the margins of society with little hope of attaining leadership roles and getting ahead. In this film, we allow eleven extraordinary and courageous individuals to tell their stories in their own words.”

The team of vets from ‘High Ground’ take to the stage after its debut for a lively Q & A. They were met with cheers and a standing ovation.

There is a deeply personal feeling to the film as we get to know each team member’s story and we get to hear them talk – sometimes reluctantly – about the mountains of physical and mental pain they deal with on a daily basis. From their eyes, their tears and their words, it is clear that they all continue to struggle  despite being off the battlefield. But, we also see the transformation that occurs as these strong individuals work together in a breathtaking landscape. There is no doubt that this expedition helped move these brave men and women further along their individual paths toward healing and self-discovery.

“The most important lesson I learned in Nepal is that I have to BE the change I want to see in the world,” explains former Army Corporal Chad Butrick. “I know that we hear that all the time but to live it is another story all together. I want to live that. I want to see the world change. I hope that I can in some part provide inspiration for that change. The expedition has given me a lot more confidence in my personal life as well. I really don’t view any task or goal as being out of my reach now.”

Boulder’s own Chad Butrick climbing near the summit of Lobuche

Brown and Hahn found the perfect mix of intensity, humor and beauty to create a truly fantastic film. I cried, I laughed, I cheered and I have not stopped thinking about the questions it raised and the feelings it unearthed since I saw it. Much like every trip up a mountain, the lessons learned from accompanying these intrepid climbers on their journey (even from a seat in a theater), will stick with you. This film is sure to help increase our understanding of the sacrifices made by those who come home from defending our freedom.

Check out Michael Brown explaining his hope for ‘High Ground’ which won the People’s Choice award and the Best Call 2 Action film at the Boulder International Film Festival this weekend.

For more info on the movie go to:  ‘High Ground’.

Another expedition is planned for 2012. Soliders to the Summit is starting an 8 month program that will ultimately lead them to Cotopaxi in Ecuador with a new group of soldiers. For more info go to: Soldiers to Summits.

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