Student film on alumnus vet wins festival award

Jenna Bush stands with James Henderson, an alumnus and veteran of the war in Afghanistan and the focus of her award-winning documentary. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)

The Garden State Film Festival shows over 100 films annually and has over 30 award categories. This year, Jenna Bush, junior communication studies major, received the award for “Home Grown Student Documentary Short” for her documentary “Minor Details” on Sunday March 28. The festival took place at various theaters in Asbury Park.

“Minor Details” focuses on James Henderson, a soldier who graduated from the College in 2009 after returning home from serving a 15-month tour in Afghanistan. Bush began the film as a project in her documentary production class, originally wanting to do a documentary on TCNJ STRONG (Supporting our Troops Reaching those Overseas Now and Going).

“We wanted a soldier’s point of view,” Bush said during a screening of “Minor Details” last Wednesday in the Kendall Hall TV studio. “We saw a story in James.”

Bush started working on the film last spring, and continued with the project throughout the summer. Terry Byrne, professor of communication studies, and Christina Eliopoulos, a film director with whom Bush worked with as an intern, later encouraged her to submit “Minor Details” to the film festival.

The short documentary is a combination of footage from Henderson’s time in Afghanistan, which he shot himself on a personal video camera, and that of his last semester at the College, including his graduation. The film explores Henderson’s physical and emotional transition from the severity of war to the normality of civilian life.

“Minor Details” is the film’s title for multiple reasons. In the film, Henderson refers to the soldiers’ poor living conditions as “minor details,” but according to Bush the meaning goes much deeper.

“(Henderson) may be one in millions of troops who have fought overseas, a minor detail. Yet the film highlights how big of a person he truly is,” Bush said in an e-mail interview. “At one point

Jenna Bush. (Tim Lee/Photo Editor)

(Henderson) also talks about the small things he has come to appreciate after his experience in Afghanistan … The message of the film is to be the opposite of a minor detail and to appreciate the small things (minor details) in life.”

Bush said winning the award reassured her that the film was recognized by the outside world.

“It’s one thing to have your friends, family and professors praise your work, but it’s a whole different story to have it recognized by the film community,” she said. “It really has encouraged me to continue doing what I’m doing.”

Bush also said she is currently working on a screenplay for a film she is planning to produce and direct with fellow communication studies student Dan Quinn in the upcoming semester as an independent study.  She is also working with Eliopoulos on a documentary feature called “Demon on Wheels.”

Brianna Gunter can be reached at gunter2@tcnj.edu.