Bulletproof Film heads to Vietnam for veterans’ reconciliation doc

Carmine Cervi (pictured) and his Bulletproof Film partner Ilko Davidov will shoot in Vietnam this August for their documentary “Teaching the Vietnam War: Reconciliation and Memory.”

Robert Arnoldt and James Brask both served in Vietnam, but they lived through two different wars.

Arnoldt volunteered in 1965 to fight Communism. He returned in 1967 and suffered from post- traumatic stress disorder and diabetes due to his exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange.

Brask volunteered in 1970 to avoid the draft, but found himself participating in the invasion of Cambodia, where he was wounded in a helicopter crash and sent home.

Arnoldt and Brask, who teach a course on the Vietnam War together at Barat College in Lake Forest, are returning to that country together for the first time this summer. Bulletproof Film partners Ilko Davidov and Carmine Cervi are going along to document the experience for the documentary Teaching the Vietnam War: Reconciliation and Memory.” Bulletproof is co-producing the film with director Dave Mulvihill.

“Professors Brask and Arnoldt come from opposite sides of the political spectrum and have completely different views about the meaning of the war,” Cervi said. “They’re trying to change the way the war is taught, keeping an open dialogue that reflects all the context and different viewpoints about this very complex war.”

Since spring 2002, Bulletproof has been taping interviews for “Teaching the Vietnam War” and documenting Brask and Arnoldt’s class, which has featured guest speakers ranging from Vietnamese and American veterans, to Bernadine Dorn of the radical Weather Underground, who spent 11 years on the FBI’s most wanted list. Mulvihill, Davidov and Cervi also accompanied the two professors to the 20th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. last November.

The DV documentary’s $150,000 is being raised through Brask’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies, which provides scholarships for Southeast Asian students to study in the U.S. The filmmakers plan to seek television broadcast and educational distribution when the film is completed late this year or early next year, Cervi said.

Bulletproof is also gearing up to travel to Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula this fall to co- produce a yet-untitled HD feature by indy icon and Chicago native Jon Jost (“All the Vermeers in New York,” “Sure Fire,” “The Bed You Sleep In”). Cervi met Jost while both men were living in Rome in the 1990s. Jost spent part of last year working out of Bulletproof’s offices.

Jost, who is getting a free HD package from Panavision, will spend the summer on the peninsula researching regional issues for the improvised narrative.

“Underlying these local aspects will be a poetic depiction of the current social/political climate in the U.S?with paranoid fear played upon by a government which is increasingly moving towards police-state actions while making Orwellian pronouncements about ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom,'” Jost said.

Bulletproof provides a full line of production and post-production video and audio services, mostly to independent filmmakers. “We tend to get very involved with the projects we work on, though some people just hire us to shoot and edit,” Cervi said.

Davidov started Bulletproof in 1995, largely as a post facility, then expanded into production for Michael Thompson’s 3-part doc “Henry Darger, Lee Godie, Mr. Imagination: 3 Self-Taught Chicago Artists.” Cervi joined the company in 2000.

Last year Bulletproof moved from their Wicker Park offices into the Acme Art Works Building at 1741 N. Western, run by Laura Weathered of the Near Northwest Arts Council, a collaborative space which also includes a screening venue and workspaces for writers, photographers and visual artists.

“Algren’s Last Night,” a short Cervi made with Second City alum Warren Leming, will play in the Movieside Film Festival at 8 p.m. Friday, June 13 at Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee.

Reach Bulletproof at 773/394-8170 or bulletprooffilm.com.
– by Ed M. Koziarski, edk@homesickblues.com