Elliott Hasler, whose feature debut, World War II: A Long Walk Home is released on October 26, wrote the script at the age of 16, and is the youngest director to have a film play at the Berlin Film Festival. He’s now 20 and in production on his second feature, Vindication Swim, the story of Mercedes Gleitze, the first British woman to swim the English Channel. Elliot spoke with The Fountain about World War II in more depth, as well as how Vindication Swim is working out for him.

TF: You have directed a feature, what can we expect from World War II: A Long Walk Home

It’s a true story based upon the exploits of my great-grandfather during the Second World War and follows his journey across Nazi-occupied Italy as an escaped prisoner of war. So audiences can expect the typical war movie fare, but set within a deeply personal story of an ordinary man forced to do extraordinary things, that I think many people can relate quite strongly to. 

TF: What inspired you to look at this period in time for your first feature?

I’ve always been very interested in history and in the Second World War. I’d grown up hearing tales of my great-grandfather’s experiences (sadly I never actually met him), so it sort of made sense to me to begin my career with a story of such personal relevance. And I think that made me put a lot more care and love into the project, as I was so deeply invested in it on many different levels.

TF: I presume you are trying to veer away from people addressing your age, but have you found this has affected the reception to the film? 

I think the film needs to be viewed within the context of my age when I made it. Seen as the directorial debut of a sixteen year old filmmaker who began work on it at fourteen, the film is of course a pretty impressive achievement, and the reception has really pointed out this fact. Compared with of major Hollywood war pictures the film is of course flawed and looking back at it now from a much more matured and developed perspective there are definitely fundamental changes I would make. But ultimately as a feature length period piece made with a zero dollar budget the film is a huge achievement and the fantastic reception that it’s received really acknowledges that.

TF: What is your plan for the remainder of the year, after this film release?

To wrap production on my upcoming feature, Vindication Swim, which is about two thirds of the way through shooting at the moment. The film is about Mercedes Gleitze who in 1927 became the first British woman to swim the English Channel, which is exactly where we’ve been out filming all summer; in the sea with the actors on a wooden boat and Kirsten Callaghan who plays Mercedes actually in the water performing all of her own swimming.

For more information on World War II: A Long Walk Home including how to get it, click here