War is a grim business, but the messages at the kickoff Tuesday of the ninth annual GI Film Festival were nothing but positive.

“Our mission is to foster a positive image for men and women in uniform and to connect service members to society,” GI Film Festival co-founder and President Brandon Millett (who described himself as “one of those curious creatures known as a male military spouse”) told a group of reporters.

Among the criteria for a film’s selection in the festival?

“Do you walk away with a greater sense of appreciation and respect for what men and women and uniform do for us on a daily basis?” Millett said.

And while the festival’s selections touch on a wide range of issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide, substance abuse and finding employment in the civilian world, “all of our films focus on inspiration and finding solutions,” his wife, Laura Millett-Law, a West Point graduate and army veteran, emphasized.

Accentuating the positive makes sense, especially if you’re trying to woo an audience that feels it has been burned by mainstream pop culture in the past. But the short films Millett and Millett-Law screened for reporters provide an important reminder that inspirational messaging has its limits. Constantly telling us that great characters and interesting scenarios are uplifting and aspirational can drown their stories in schmaltz, rather than letting them stand on their own merits.

This sort of imbalance is particularly obvious in “Climb: The Rob Jones Story.” To a certain extent, that’s because the short film is in support of the fundraising for charity that Jones, a veteran who lost both of his legs above the knee to an IED, did as part of the cross-country bike ride that is the subject of the movie. But it’s a shame that the film spends so much time telling us how amazing Jones is, because it’s obvious every time he appears on screen.

An early still image shows Jones in uniform, a sunflower jauntily topping off his helmet. “I found it with my foot,” Jones says dryly of the IED that wounded him. His brother Steve shows plenty of good humor, too, especially when he’s describing Jones’ plan to bicycle across the country to raise money for charity, in the dead of winter, going East to West, and doing so without training much first.

“Well, America has a lot of hills, and it’s very roll-y,” Steve says. “Plus, he added like 2,400 miles going like this and like this down the coasts. … I guess those were the factors against us, that, and that Rob doesn’t have legs. That’s a factor. … He says he hates the hot weather, so that worked out, I guess.”

“Climb” also has interesting interviews with Zach Harvey, who built Jones’ prosthetic legs, and fascinating explanations of what muscles are involved in peddling a bicycle, and why Jones’ specific amputations make that so difficult. But the movie spends more time lionizing Jones in voiceovers from Gary Sinise and testimonials from the members of “Team Rob” than technical details, even though the ins and outs of prosthesis design and the sheer physical challenges Jones set for himself might make the point more effectively.

“The Haircut,” Alexis O. Korycinski’s short, fictional film about the first class of women who entered the military service academies in 1976, lacks the voice-over. But the dramatic structure of the movie, which feels like a demonstration reel for what could become a fine, stylish feature film, hits a bit too hard on the Inspirational Stations of the Cross.

Amy (Bailey Noble, bringing a nice sensitivity to the part) begins the movie headed to what appears to be West Point; we first see her panicking in a beauty salon where she’s supposed to get a regulation haircut. She comes home after a pool party only to overhear her father’s friends placing bets on how long she’ll last; later, her father expresses his doubts to her directly.

“Honey, what you’re doing. You’re choosing a path for your life. That is no place for a girl. You want to be a guinea pig?” he asks, anguished. “Who’s going to hire you after this? Who’s going to marry you?”

Amy replies, “You don’t want me to do this.”

Her dad asks, “Why do you want to?”

Once she arrives at school, we get the expected verbally abusive drill sergeants and sexual harassment from Amy’s classmates. But Amy earns the respect of her chief training officer when she goes to him to report an incident. “What was this about? Trying to find a husband? Trying to prove something to your daddy, make him love you like a son?” he demands of her.

“I’m here because I’m just like you, sir. Because I want to be part of something big and powerful. Because I don’t want a normal life,” she tells him in a speech that could have been scripted by a military recruiter. “I want to serve my country, sir.”

“That’s f__ adorable,” the man tells her.

His response one of the few truly human moments of dialogue in the film, and it’s nice to see Amy get in line for push-ups, and then head off to get the dreaded haircut. If these stock plot points were spaced out in a longer, less prototypical movie, “The Haircut” might make for a fine period piece, one that shows rather than tells.

Both films suggest a different pitch for the GI Film Festival, in service of efforts to promote films about underrepresented populations. But if you want to “foster a positive image” and “connect service members to society,” all you need are good stories.

Rosenberg writes The Post’s Act Four blog, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/act-four/.