PTSD documentary making world premiere at Twin Cities Film Fest

The filmmakers say Iron Will is a journey through post traumatic stress through a veteran's eyes.

Veterans don't usually ask for help, Sergio Valenzuela says.

"We have the mentality: 'I don't need help. There's nothing wrong with me.' If you have to ask for help, we see that as a sign of weakness," the director of the documentary Iron Will: Veterans' Battle with PTSD told GoMN.

But when 20 veterans per day are ending their own lives, it's evidence that the prevailing mentality is not serving them well.

The makers of Iron Willhope the documentary that makes its world premiere at the Twin Cities Film Festival on Saturday will help change the way veterans and civilians alike think about post traumatic stress disorder.

They describe the movie as a journey into post traumatic stress through veterans' eyes – highlighting the challenges they're up against, their courage in facing those challenges, and some of the treatments that are helping them.

Valenzeula knows about the mentality of veterans because he's one of them. And he knows plenty of others – from his days on the battlefields of Iraq and from nearly three years spent making Iron Will, which is based on the experiences of about 30 veterans.

So what does it take to break through a veteran's reluctance to ask for help?

Tim Vandesteeg, a Bloomington native who co-produced Iron Will, says it often starts with listening to fellow veterans.

"Once they heard others talking about what they've been through – then they wanted to open up," Vandesteeg told GoMN. "It's easier to get them to help others. Then they realize they could use some help, too."

When someone does step forward to ask for help with PTSD, what kind of help is available?

That's another place where there's more work to be done. But the options have been expanding. Visits to a psychiatrist and medications are still standbys, but Iron Will also highlights alternative treatments, which include going fly fishing and writing songs.

Valenzuela says having a wide range of treatments available to veterans is important "because every person is different – we come from so many walks of life."

There's no denying that post traumatic stress can be a grim topic. Vandesteeg, who lost a younger brother to it, says he wants to get people to care about it and not turn the other way when it comes up.

For Valenzuela a commitment to the issue is part of the bond he feels with veterans he considers his brothers and sisters.

"We had to be there for each other – in basic training, in our garrison, in combat," he says. 'And now that we're back, we've gotta be there for each other. It hasn't stopped. Your lives depend on each other when you're in combat but it doesn't stop there."

3 showings

Iron Will makes its world premiere in St. Louis Park at the Showplace ICON Theater with screenings starting at 7:15 and 7:30 Saturday night.

Because of strong interest in the documentary, the Film Festival has added a third showing on Tuesday Oct. 25 at noon.

Jatin Setia, the executive director of the Twin Cities Film Festival, said in a statement it's an honor to host the premiere of Iron Will.

"We find it our duty to spotlight causes and social justice issues each year and in 2016, we're putting our attention on Veteran Support. The conversation about PTSD and how we as a community should do whatever we can to help our veterans is a crucial one," he said.

Next Up


Golf spots still available for the Rod Simons Memorial Golf for the Gift of Adoption

The annual golf tournament is THIS TUESDAY at Troy Burne in Hudson, Wisconsin.

police tape, crime scene

Police investigating Saturday homicide in Austin

Officers responded to a report of a woman shot in a house in Austin just before 2 a.m. Saturday.

fire, firefighter

2 dead in Wadena County house fire, boy survives

The fire was reported around 3:50 a.m. Sunday.

Jose Berrios

Berríos dominates in first start with Blue Jays

The former Twin made a great first impression with his new team.

Lauri Markkanen

Report: Timberwolves interested in sign-and-trade for Lauri Markkanen

The Wolves will look to upgrade at power forward in free agency.

Suni Lee

Suni Lee, Regan Smith take home Olympic medals Sunday

Lee won bronze in the uneven bars final, while Smith won silver in the 4x100-meter medley relay.

Screen Shot 2021-08-01 at 9.16.26 AM

'Zero respect for authority': Olmsted Co. Fair wracked by wave of juvenile disturbances

Fair officials imposed strict new rules to deal with the problem.

ambulance, crash

Baby dies, 5 injured when SUV flips over fence onto I-94 in Brooklyn Center

Alcohol was detected on the driver, according to the State Patrol.

minneapolis police

Police say officers were shot at in north Minneapolis

Officers were checking into a suspicious activity report when gunfire erupted.


Walmart to mandate COVID vaccine for some managers, corporate employees

The company will also reinstate mask mandates for employees in high-transmission areas.

Minneapolis police

Driver plows into crowd after downtown Minneapolis brawl

Two suspects have reportedly been identified.


ESPN's new documentary about Jack Jablonski airs Sunday morning

The USC communications major is staying close to hockey as he advocates for spinal injury treatments

Festival will have lots of MN-made films, a couple tributes – and virtual reality

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival will look at how virtual reality is transforming film.

Woody Harrelson film shot in MN gets its premiere at Sundance

Wilson was filmed in 50 locations around the Twin Cities.

Movie stars confirmed to attend Twin Cities Film Fest

The festival kicks off on Oct. 17 with a movie from one of the Farrelly brothers.

Documentary series gives military vets a voice, chance to heal

"Operation: Fishing Freedom" helps vets heal from Post Traumatic Stress.