In My Brother's Shoes -- produced by Atlas Media Group (Joe Orlandino and Ed Pope) and Polymyth Productions -- is a short film that centers on the accidental pilgrimage of a Chicago man, named Danny, whose younger brother, a Marine, was killed in Iraq. Danny dons his brother's ill-fitting combat boots and travels to Rome, Italy, where he processes his grief, honors his brother's memory, and better understands his own capacity for sacrifice. In My Brother's Shoes was awarded Best Short Film at the 2015 Mirabile Dictu International Catholic Film Festival at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, and was featured in the 2015 Cannes International Film Festival's Short Film Corner. It premiered on September 21, 2014 at the Auditorium Theatre's Ganz Hall in Chicago. The event opened with a U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard and featured a concert by composer Enzo De Rosa and a Q&A with the cast and crew. The film has been screened at the American University in Rome in honor of the USO; for U.S. veterans organizations; at Loyola University Chicago; Casa Italia's Film Series; the National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini; the Pritzker Military Museum & Library in Chicago; and Western Illinois University for Military Appreciation Week in Macomb, Ill.
In June 2009, I was standing in front of the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, waiting to meet a film colleague. Amid the bustle of clergy, locals, travelers on pilgrimage and endless photo-snapping tourists, a young American man in his thirties leaned against the railing near me. We struck up a conversation, and I noticed that he was sweating profusely in the humidity. He also happened to be wearing a pair of shoes that didn’t fit him properly and were practically torn to shreds – as if he had walked halfway around the world in them. When I asked what brought him to Rome, he pointed to his shoes and said, “My younger brother…he was a Marine. He got killed in Iraq…a roadside bomb.” The young man, smiling and out of breath but with tears in his eyes, went on to explain that his brother wanted to backpack with his friends to Rome and other parts of Italy, but never had the chance. So the man standing before me took it upon himself to fulfill that dream. He put on his brother’s favorite shoes, which were too tight, and vowed not to take them off until he visited all the sights that his sibling would have wanted to see in and around Rome. I was so moved by this encounter, I felt compelled to share this man’s story. In My Brother’s Shoes is a tribute to all the service men and women, and their loved ones, who embark on a path of sacrifice and hope.
In My Brother's Shoes was shot in Chicago, Ill., and Rome, Italy in May 2014. My ongoing goal is to hold screenings across the U.S., with proceeds being donated to American veterans' organizations, specifically those addressing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).