Professor Mike Grundmann’s Documentary Receives Recognition

Media Arts and Design

Mike Grundmann, an associate professor in the SMAD department, created a documentary Breaking Free, about a riding center that works with veterans to help them “overcome the effects of trauma, emotional hardships, and other barriers to quality of life.” This documentary film has been screened at a variety of film festivals and has received multiple awards. 

Grundmann began working on the documentary in the summer of 2017. He was drawn to cover the riding center because he was born with a cleft lip and palate and had to undergo surgeries to repair it. His experience helps him to relate to his documentary subjects and has pushed him to produce several documentaries relating to disabilities.

In the process of filming the documentary, Grundmann got very close and personal with certain veterans and their stories. He hopes that the film will enable the viewers to empathize with the veterans' situation and understand the bond formed with the horses. 

“They certainly didn’t have to allow a guy to stick his camera in their face but they did and they were happy to do it because the veterans that have been through the program think a lot of it,” Grundmann said.


Breaking Free was screened at many film festivals including the New Haven International Film Festival, Best Shorts Competition, Bethesda Film Festival and the Skyline Indie Film Festival. Internationally, it was screened at the Toronto Documentary Short Film Festival, the Monkey Bread Tree Film Awards in the U.K., and the Equinale, a horse-themed festival in Germany. 

Breaking Free has also been recognized through several awards. In the 2019 award season, the documentary was given the Bronze Telly award and a silver from the Minefield Film Festival. It was also given an award of recognition from IndiFest. 

Back to Top

Published: Friday, October 25, 2019

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

Related Articles