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Contact: Garland Waller

“The Silent Soldier and the Portrait” Wins Award in IndieFEST Film Awards
(Boston, MA 2.10.19) – “The Silent Soldier and the Portrait” produced by Incandescent
Media has won a prestigious Award of Merit from the IndieFEST Film Awards. The
award was given for Garland Waller’s exciting documentary, “The Silent Soldier and the
Portrait”. Co-Directed and co-written with her husband, Barry Nolan, the documentary
tells the story of John Waller, one of the last living survivors of the sinking of the
troopship Leopoldville on Christmas Eve in 1944. After the sinking, and the loss of 800
men, Waller followed military orders and kept the tragedy a secret. But there was
another secret, this one involving blowing up a safe in France during the war. On a
mission to do the right thing, the documentary retraces the journey of a young solider, to
make amends.

“This was a project of the heart,” says Waller. “In the end, it is a moving portrait of
repair, repatriation and second chances. That is what people respond to the most.”
The IndieFEST Film Awards recognizes film, television, videography and new media
professionals who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity, and
those who produce standout entertainment or contribute to profound social change.
Entries are judged by highly qualified professionals in the film and television industry.
Information about the IndieFEST and a list of recent winners can be found at

In winning an IndieFEST Film Award, the team at Incandescent Media joins the ranks of
other high-profile winners of this internationally respected award including Liam Neeson
as the narrator of Love Thy Nature, A Path Appears Documentary featuring George
Clooney and Blake Lively, Radical Grace executive produced by Susan Sarandon, and
a searing expose Davids and Goliath by Peabody winner Leon Lee.  Rick Prickett, who
chairs The IndieFEST Film Awards, had this to say about the latest winners, “The
IndieFEST is not an easy award to win. Entries are received from around the world from
powerhouse companies to remarkable new talent. The IndieFEST helps set the
standard for craft and creativity. The judges were pleased with the exceptional high
quality of entries. The goal of The IndieFEST Film Awards is to help winners achieve
the recognition they deserve.”


October 2018


Garland Waller




The Silent Soldier and the Portrait

A New Film about Two Secrets and a Second Chance

Shot on a Shoestring, a Prayer and an iPad


John Waller, age 93, is one of the last living survivors of one of the greatest, and least known military tragedies of the Second World War. Until recently, very few people knew anything at all about the sinking of the troopship SS Leopoldville, torpedoed by a German U-boat in the English Channel on Christmas Eve, 1944. Not many people knew about how the lives of 800 men were lost, just five miles from the lights of Cherbourg Harbour. And that included John’s daughter, Garland Waller, a professor in the Film and Television Department at Boston University’s College of Communication.


But recently, as she was helping her father move, she came across an album of old black and white photos her dad had taken during his service in WWII. Garland began to ask questions. And an amazing story began to pour out.


Then came a moment like all those classic ones in the Judy Garland and Andy Rooney movies of that era. Garland said to Barry Nolan, the man who adored her: “Hey, I’m a producer and you have an iPad. Let’s make this into a movie. How hard could it be?”


The answer turned out to be a little more complicated than Garland thought it would be, but the result is The Silent Soldier and the Portrait.


The documentary tells the amazing story of how a small quirk of fate gave her father a second chance on Christmas Eve…. And how the military told the survivors to keep the tragedy a secret.  It also tells of another secret, about how a moment of youthful folly that involved blowing up a safe, and the portrait of a woman, came to haunt a good man’s conscience.  It tells a story of doing the right thing and, ultimately, making peace with oneself.  


Garland Waller produced and co-directed the documentary which was made with two iPads and an iPhone, a credit card, and a TV reporter husband who said, “Sure. Why not?” It is Judy Garland and Andy Rooney 2.0


Long time TV reporter Barry Nolan, Garland’s husband, co-directed and became an overnight expert on the other side of the camera. And there were amazing graduate students in the College of Communication to help with research. Their big task: Find an estate…it was somewhere in France during WWII … and it was kind of beige. The task wasn’t easy. Beige is hard to define sometimes.


Shooting took place in Boston, Virginia Beach, Pennsylvania, England and France. They retraced John Waller’s fateful journey across the English Channel and along the way, the BBC decided to cover the story. So the Waller-Nolan team videotaped the BBC videotaping them. Think Magritte with a camera and less experience.


The production drew on key authorities in the field of art and repatriation and interviewed the leading expert on the tragedy, Allan Andrade, the author of The Leopoldville Tragedy: Too Long a Secret. Andrade confirmed John Waller’s memory of the event and added shocking details of the tragedy.


Dan Dunbar, a colleague who once worked with Barry at Evening Magazine in Boston, edited the film.


There have been father-son documentaries/movies and there have been mother-daughter documentaries/movies, but to our knowledge, there has not been a father-daughter documentary that spans seven decades and lands squarely in the “understanding life better now” category. The film is by turns, deeply moving and warmly funny. It is a film about second chances…. and how, if you get one, you should take it.


An online screener is available on request.


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