Anyone who's been in combat knows you can pack a hell of a lot into just a few minutes.

Writer-director Henry "Hank" Hughes does exactly that with his debut short action film "Day One," based largely on his experiences as a cavalry scout leader in Afghanistan.

Indeed, in less than a half hour, Hughes takes you to uncomfortable, even agonizing places. And just like combat, the experience is not what you might expect, especially from a Ranger-tabbed former paratrooper.

"I haven't seen a war film yet about our more recent wars that's touched me," Hughes said. So he set out to capture something he hopes resonates with today's war fighters, but more importantly conveys their experience in a way civilians can understand.

It appears he’s getting through. "Day One" is among five films nominated in the Academy Awards' Short Film (Live Action) category. The awards ceremony will be telecast Sundayto win an Oscar at the Academy Awards Feb. 28.

"Really, I wanted to make this film for people who have not had this experience of what it's like to go to war," Hughes said. "I wasn't sure if I could ever figure out about what I thought about my time there — it was a good thing, it was a bad thing — it's not so simple that I can reduce like that. But I do know what it felt like. And I thought maybe I could show people what that feeling is like."

"Day One" stars Layla Alizada as an Afghan-American interpreter.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Henry Hughes

The film follows a new civilian interpreter on her first day on the job working with a small U.S. Army foot patrol in Afghanistan's rugged highlands. It is "day one" of her tour downrange. The film grapples with the complexities of culture and the war on terrorism as well as the stark realities of death.

"It really sucks when someone dies. And it's a profound experience. But it's hard to get one for one on screen, so I thought with the feminine thrown into this largely masculine world, that it would maybe would churn things up enough that we could have these sort of sublime moments of things that are horribly beautiful," Hughes said.

The movie draws largely from Hughes' experiences with his female translator during his second tour in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Hughes works with cast and crew during the filming of "Day One."

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Henry Hughes

"This woman, my interpreter, is a fighter. My family fights. It's what we do; we've served continuously since the Revolutionary War. Fighting beside her changed me," Hughes writes in an introduction to the film. "It changed the way I understood universal love. I left the Army after my tour with her in order to pursue filmmaking and when the time came to make a film about the war, I knew I would start with her story."

And when he walks the red carpet on Hollywood's biggest night, she'll be there with him as well.

"She's incredibly excited. We're all going together, along with my parents and my wife. It's almost been like planning a wedding, so many people want to come, but there's only so many tickets. You hurt some feelings along the way, but once I knew we got the nomination, I knew she had to come. She is my muse for this film."

"Day One" is showing in theaters across the country along with the other shorts. It's also available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Video and other on-demand services.

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