An overflow crowd packed the University Theatre at San Jose State University in California for a closing night screening of Terry L. Benedict’s “The Conscientious Objector” at the Cinequest Film Festival. The film, which tells the story of World War II veteran Desmond T. Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist, won Best Feature in the digital category as well as the Audience Choice Award Documentary in competition with nearly 80 films.
“I was really overwhelmed by my experience at Cinequest,” said Benedict, an Adventist and filmmaker who is based in Santa Monica, California. “It was a great honor to be the closing night film and I was excited by the tremendous audience response.”
The feature length documentary tells the story of Doss, who served his nation despite strong convictions that did not allow him to carry a gun and compelled him to keep the Saturday Sabbath. He was eventually awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military honor the United States bestows. Doss was the only noncombatant to receive the medal during that war.
Following the screening, Cinequest presented Doss with the “Maverick Spirit” award, which is given to the world’s most accomplished directors, producers, actors, cinematographers, editors and composers whose life epitomizes the concept of a maverick over a spectrum of career and human endeavors. Earlier in the week the award was presented to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A joyous and emotional Doss was “really impressed by the honor he was given by everyone here, and by the people he met,” Benedict said.
Cinequest co-founder and executive director Halfdan Hussey said, “This year’s Cinequest had the biggest name and the biggest hero. Our organization was honored to have Governor Schwarzenegger and Desmond T. Doss, both Mavericks in their own right, attend the festival.”
The Conscientious Objector received several reviews from area film critics. Richared von Busack of the “Silicon Valley Metro” said, “The documentary is not only a harrowing true-life war story, it is also a glowing example of Christian ethics put to the supreme test.” Glenn Lovell of the “San Jose Mercury News” gave the film three stars out of four and said it, “Profiles with singular grace and conviction the amazing life of Desmond T. Doss.”
The Conscientious Objector also had the distinction, according to festival organizers, of being one of a handful of films to not only sell out, but also to require an additional screening due to demands from an estimated 400 extra people that showed up.