Recent UNC School of Media and Journalism graduate Robert Kinlaw ’17 received an Excellence in Filmmaking Award on Sunday, Nov. 19, at the twelfth annual Carrboro Film Festival. More than 300 films were submitted, according to the Festival.
His nine-minute documentary film, “Princess Warrior,” explores the lasting effects of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on an Army veteran with a master’s degree from UNC in clinical social work. Amanda Paige — known as A.P. — was with an Army combat stress control unit helping to take the burden off of other soldiers when an attack on her unit’s living and dining quarters left one colleague dead and 22 with missing limbs. The experience changed her life.
Kinlaw is proud of the film festival award but insists, “Without [A.P.], I have nothing.”
He credits her willingness to open up about her life with PTSD for changing the direction of his film, which began as a class assignment and was refined the summer and fall after Kinlaw graduated from UNC with a bachelor's degree in media and journalism and minors in arts and sciences and religious studies.
“Princess Warrior” was built upon an assignment from filmmaker Chad Stevens, an associate professor at the MJ-school who teaches photojournalism and documentary storytelling. When Stevens asked the class to choose a subject that would change over time, Kinlaw thought about an article he’d written in MJ-school Associate Professor Paul Cuadros’ public affairs reporting class one summer about Vets to Vets United, an organization that connects veterans to service dogs.
“[A.P.] was training a service dog. I thought the film would be about that journey,” Kinlaw says. Instead, the veteran herself and the raw emotion she brought to telling the story of her experiences and sacrifices became the story.
Kinlaw has much more footage and enough information to write a book about Paige’s journey, but he kept the film short so more people will watch it.
“What she’s done by sharing these intimate moments is incredibly brave,” says Kinlaw. “More than anything, I want people to see it.”