“No Greater Love” isn’t just a documentary. It’s a movement that aims to help veterans, service members and their families heal.
The film, co-produced by Mercer University faculty member Laura Fong, premiers Friday at 25 U.S. theaters, including in Fort Benning, Lawrenceville and Buford in Georgia. It will play for a week, but additional dates and locations could be added if it does well, said retired Army chaplain Justin Roberts, the film’s director.
The documentary follows the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division — nicknamed “No Slack” — during a yearlong deployment to the Kunar province in Afghanistan in 2010. The 800-man unit had 18 casualties and more than 200 injuries and earned more than 200 Purple Hearts, said Fong, a visiting assistant professor and journalist-in-resident for the Center for Collaborative Journalism.
“No Greater Love” is the first film directed by an active duty U.S. soldier. Roberts said that as a chaplain he couldn’t carry a weapon, so he asked if he could carry a camera. He filmed the unit’s experiences while on tour, and the documentary weaves his footage with interviews shot later with soldiers and family members.
“Because of the relationship the chaplain had with the soldiers, they tell a very honest story about combat,” Fong said. “It’s not a story about war, but it’s story about love. It’s a story about the love people have for their fellow soldiers, the love they have for their country, the love they have for their families, and this bond that happens between soldiers that are in combat together.”
Fong has been doing documentary work with veterans for about a decade. In 2010, she visited Vietnam with U.S. combat veterans who were seeking reconciliation after 35 years. She became friends with Tim Low, a “No Slack” soldier injured in Afghanistan, while doing another story. He connected her with Roberts, who later asked for her help with the project.
Fong interviewed about 35 people with Roberts and also helped with editing, media and other production duties. In the end, they turned 200 hours of interview footage into the 90-minute documentary. “No Greater Love” debuted in the film festival circuit in fall 2015 and has earned numerous awards.
“What we’re hoping is this film starts a conversation about the experiences our servicemen and women are going through in combat, but also how we come home from these wars,” Roberts said.
“No Greater Love” focuses on how to better understand and empathize with soldiers returning to civilian life, Fong said. An essential part of the healing process is getting soldiers together to share their stories and support each other outside of the military. Roberts said relationships are the key to preventing suicide by soldiers, which is the No. 1 killer of service members.
“Our hope is that this Veterans Day people can come to the theaters and be inspired by who these people are, but also they can learn about how we can help and how we can rally in the country to stand for those who stood for us,” he said.
Where to watch ‘No Greater Love’
▪ AMC Classic Fort Benning 10 in Fort Benning;
▪ AMC Colonial 18 in Lawrenceville;
▪ Regal Mall of Georgia Stadium 20 in Buford.
Visit https://nogreaterlovemovie.com/theaters to request that the film be brought to Middle Georgia later.