By Kimberly Luste Maran
“Hacksaw Ridge,” the film depicting the life and heroic efforts of Seventh-day Adventist Army combat medic Desmond Doss during World War II, received six Oscar nominations. The Jan. 24, 2017, Academy Award announcement listed the nominations: Best Picture, Bill Mechanic and David Permut, producers; Best Director, Mel Gibson; Best Actor in a Leading Role, Andrew Garfield; Best Film Editing; Best Sound Editing; and Best Sound Mixing.
|Photo: screen grab from HacksawRidge.movie
"It’s an honor to have Desmond’s story recognized by the Academy,” said Terry Benedict, the Adventist filmmaker who produced and directed the award-winning documentary on Doss entitled “The Conscientious Objector.”
“Everyone working on the picture knew they were on a very special film,” Benedict, also a producer on “Hacksaw Ridge,” added. “Never, as a little boy of 10 and reading his story, could I have known that this journey would culminate in such an impactful way."
These “recognitions cement the Doss story of personal heroism, courage, bravery, integrity, fidelity, faith, and love into world history as an exemplary model of a Christian character,” said Charles Knapp, chair of the Desmond Doss Council, in response to the nominations.
Generations of Seventh-day Adventists have grown up with stories of Doss’s experiences. His heroic actions on Okinawa, in reportedly the bloodiest battle of WWII, were shared with Adventist youth at summer camps and in Pathfinder meetings for decades. Doss, who returned to carpentry after his discharge from the Army in 1945, in speaking to youth groups internationally and working with Pathfinders in North America, would teach groups of children the bowline knot he used to lower 75 injured soldiers to safety. His actions on the Maeda Escarpment awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military award in the United States.
“Hacksaw Ridge and the Doss story indemnifies the very best virtues of those who receive the Medal of Honor,” said Knapp. “The faith of Doss is a bench mark for all who seek and commit to a life led by God.”
“Desmond Doss lived a life of love, of humility, and compassion for his fellow man,” said Best Actor nominee Garfield, in a phone interview with NBC’s The Today Show on Jan. 24. Garfield, who portrayed Doss in the film, added, “He’s an incredible symbol of what the world needs right now: the world needs that big, open-hearted sacrifice and empathy and compassion.”
Benedict was pleased with Garfield’s portrayal of Doss. Benedict, who was close to Doss, promised the war hero that he’d protect the “essence of his character.”
In a November interview with the North American Division Office of Communication, Benedict said, “Bringing Andrew down to Tennessee and then taking him up into Virginia gave us time for Andrew to learn Desmond through his five senses — and then work on his accent. … If you watch the documentary and then see “Hacksaw,” it’s incredibly uncanny the transition — it’s almost seamless — to seeing the real Desmond into seeing Andrew’s performance of Desmond.”
Benedict added, “For me, I fulfilled what I promised Desmond. … And even though he’s not with us any longer, I know that the mission has been completed.”
According to the council, Doss had been approached by many producers and directors wanting to make a film of his exploits. In all instances, Doss, who described his position in WWII as “conscientious cooperator,” backed out of the projects because of fictionalization of the facts and his beliefs. Doss legally chartered the Desmond Doss Council and gave them the rights to his story—if a film could be made that was true to the facts, his beliefs, and his church.
Producer Bill Mechanic agreed to the stipulations, and the council transferred the rights after months of negotiation with Mechanic. According to the council, it took the producer more than 13 years to bring the project to fruition.
“Hacksaw Ridge” neither downplays Desmond Doss’ Christian faith nor minimizes his beliefs, said John Bradshaw, speaker/director of It Is Written, in a commentary published this past fall.
While “Hacksaw Ridge” is not a film produced by Adventists for Adventists, and graphically and accurately depicts the horrors of war, “Gibson’s ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is an inspirational story of a Christian’s unwavering faith in God,” Bradshaw said. “As powerfully shared … , Doss’s strong convictions, his Adventist beliefs, and his unshakeable confidence in God come alive.”
“Hacksaw Ridge” was nominated for three Golden Globe awards. The film received two Critic’s Choice awards, and five Australian Academy Cinema Television Arts awards.
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