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The Independent Critic

Jack Ashton, Elliott James Langridge, Daniel Betts, Rupert Simonian, Urs Rechn, Andrea Deck, Andreas Wisniewski, Callum McGowan, Barney White
Adam Thomas Anderegg
Matt Whitaker
90 Mins.

 "Instrument of War" a Narrative Feature Finalist at Heartland Film Fest 
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"Instrument of War," Courtesy of BYUtv. 

It wouldn't be a Heartland Film Festival without a selection or two from Brigham Young University, a longtime regular presence at Heartland and, in fact, also a longtime regular presence with The Independent Critic as this site has long been devoted to covering BYU's student filmmakers and LDS filmmakers ranging from Christian Vuissa to E.R. Nelson to Richard Dutcher and others. 

This year, the selection from BYU and Provo-based BYUtv is a finalist in the narrative feature category at Heartland. Instrument of War is a marvelous entry amongst this year's films and tells the story of Clair Cline (Jack Ashton, television's Call the Midwife), an American B-24 bomber pilot captured and held at the German POW camp Stalag Luft 1 after being shot down over Holland during a bombing mission. 

Less a gritty war flick and more an intimate character drama with a story so inspirational that it's difficult to believe it's true, but it is, Instrument of War follows Cline, a trained musician, as he and his fellow POW's attempt to maintain their sanity in harsh circumstances. In an effort to boost his own spirits and those of his comrades, Cline began trading Red Cross rations with other prisoners and the guards in an effort to construct a violin from bunk bed slats, chair legs, dried glue from the bottom of chairs, and a shard of glass that was used as a woodcarving tool. The violin was, indeed, finished in time for the holidays and Cline became known for his playing of Christmas carols throughout the camp. 

Instrument of War is directed by Adam Thomas Anderegg with Oscar-winning composer Mark Isham contributing the film's tremendous original score. Filmed in Lithuania, Instrument of War manages to work within the confines of a lower budget quite nicely, especially once the early wartime scenes are done and everything unfolds within the boundaries of the camp. Wesley Johnson's lensing is edgier than we often see from a BYU production, yet it fits the film beautifully while living within BYU's usual emphasis on strong values. 

The entire ensemble of Instrument of War is solid throughout, though one must give the strongest kudos to Jack Ashton for a performance that captures both the harrowing nature of his surroundings and the seemingly undefeatable human spirit that Cline must've possessed. Filmed in cooperation with Cline's family, the story even includes excerpts from the diary of Cline's wife that she kept throughout his time in captivity. 

Brigham Young University has long been one of the best kept secrets for film studies and Instrument of War is definitely in the upper tier of films to come out of their program. Anderegg is a Heartland veteran including last year's Winter Thaw and the Crystal Heart Award-winning short The Touch. 

Not surprisingly, Anderegg's in the running again and Instrument of War is a film that Heartland audiences will love. For more information on Heartland screenings, visit the Heartland Film website.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic 

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