04/16/2008 11:53 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Happy New Year Online Premiere: Back from Iraq; The Battle Has Just Begun

The War in Iraq is a hot topic amongst politicians, but what about the thousands of families who have tragically lost loved ones?

Happy New Year is a new short film by K. Lorrel Manning, starring Michael Cuomo and William Oliver Watkins, produced by Manning and Cuomo's production company, One Light Left. The film follows "Cole" and "Link" -- best friends who fought together in Iraq -- one chilly New Year's Eve, as they reunite in a VA Hospital to candidly discuss their post-war futures. The film, which originally began as a play, was inspired by a chance encounter with an Iraq vet-turned-police officer who'd returned home feeling completely lost, as if his "future had been taken away." The film focuses on the deep psychological damage of soldiers returning from war, and sheds light on the inadequate care many receive from the VA system once they return.

Inspired by the strong response to the short from veterans, their families, VA personnel, and the general public, we are currently in heavy development on the feature film version. Over the last six months, we've had the opportunity to interview Iraq and Vietnam veterans, speak to VA personnel and family members of fallen soldiers. These interviews, along with the additional research we've done, serve as the backbone to ensuring as much accuracy as possible in the upcoming feature -- the story of a group of men who've all been physically, mentally and spiritually wounded by their time in Iraq. They find humanity, compassion and friendship with one another at a rundown V.A. hospital and find themselves on the road to recovery, but just as their luck starts to change, the ghosts of war re-emerge, leading some down a path of guilt, desperation and self-destruction, while others find a way to continue on.

With the attention of major news outlets (i.e. New York Times, Washington Post, 60 Minutes, etc.) recently dedicating investigative reporting to subjects like the conditions within the VA hospitals, the rise in suicide and homelessness among returning vets, and the personal perils of PTSD, we hope that Happy New Year will bring these issues to the forefront of our country's socio-political consciousness.

Spend 90 seconds with the trailer. If it speaks to you, watch the short. We welcome your comments, and please forward this to anyone who needs to see it. Regardless of your personal politics, this is a human story, inspired by the men and women who are fighting for us. Now they need our help.

For mature audiences only.

Happy New Year trailer:

Happy New Year -- the short:

Happy New Year (the short) premiered at the Cleveland International Film Festival. Upcoming festival screenings include the Nashville (4/23) and Maryland (5/2 & 5/3)) Film Festivals. The film will also be screened in New York City at the Tribeca Grand Hotel on April 22, 2008, followed by a panel discussion with Paul Rieckhoff (IAVA), Paula Rogovin (MFSO), Jim Fallon (VFP) and Michael Tisdale ("Goldstar, Ohio"). Additional NYC screening at the VLA/MoMA Screening Room on May 15, 2008, followed by a panel discussion (special guests tba). To RSVP or for more information on the project and upcoming screenings, visit