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Summer of Mercy video series - Week 8

The feature film:  Unbroken  (2014, 2 hr 17 min)

About the story:
Louie Zamperini was born January 26, 1917 in Olean, New York to Italian immigrant parents.  The family moved to Torrance, California in 1919, and attended Torrance High School where we became a star distance runner.  His performance on the track won him a place on the 1936 US Olympic Team, making him the youngest American to qualify for the 5000 meters at the age of 19.  After the Olympics he attended USC, setting a collegiate record in the mile run that stood for 15 years, earning him the nickname “Torrance Tornado.”

In 1941 Louie enlisted in the US Army Air Corps and was eventually sent to the Pacific as a bombardier.  While on a search-and-rescue mission in 1943 his plane developed mechanical problems and crashed into the Pacific.  He and two others survived the crash, but were stranded at sea for 47 days until they were picked-up by the Japanese Navy.  He spent the remainder of the war as POW, regularly subjected to beatings and other abuses.

After the war he was liberated from the POW camp and returned to his family, eventually getting married to Cynthia Applewhite in 1946 and giving him a daughter and a son.  His return also brought severe post traumatic stress, but he eventually found relief in 1949 when his wife encouraged him to attend one of Billy Graham’s Crusades.  This experience reminded him of his commitment to his faith through which he found the strength to forgive his captors.  During the years after the war he made efforts to visit many of the guards to offer his forgiveness in person, except for Watanabe, who refused to see him.  He ran a leg of the Olympic Torch relay during the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, running near the same area where he was once imprisoned.

About the film:
The film is a true story based on the 2010 book by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.  Released in 2014, the film was directed and co-produced by Angelina Jolie.  Universal Studios distributed the film, which had held the rights to Zamperini’s story since the late 1950’s, and purchased the book rights in 2011.  The film was a commercial success for a lower budget feature, but drew mixed reviews from the critics.  Still, it was nominated for 3 Academy Awards, and selected as one of the top 10 films of 2014 by the American Film Institute.  Much of criticism dealt with what was not shown in the film, primarily, his troubles after the war and how rededicating his life to Christ allowed him to forgive his captors.  Still, the film stands a testament to Louie’s unbreakable spirit, even in the midst of the atrocities of war and the severe mistreatment of prisoners of war.  Louie’s life is also a testament to the power of forgiveness, and how mercy can bring even greater grace.

Film starts at 7:00 pm in the Religious Education Center


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