film fulbright

October 15, 2008

Notes from the Field: A Filmmaker’s View

Posted by: Jason Brush

April 6th, 2005

Notes from the Field: Vietnam

Here’s the deal. We’re shooting a film titled BOMBHUNTERS, that examines the effects of UXO contamination on vulnerable populations in Cambodia and Vietnam. We’ve spent four and a half months shooting throughout Cambodia and feel like we have a pretty good feel for how to approach what is sometimes a rather disconcerting subject. Things like kids hammering at bullets, men taking hacksaws to bombs and aiming cutting torches at mortars have become commonplace to us. By the time we pull into Dong Ha town in central Vietnam, we have experience. We have confidence. What we don’t have is a lot of time.

With a Fulbright research grant as our foundation, and a pre-arranged sponsor already in place (we thought) in Quang Tri province, we were confident that access to stories would be comprehensive, and immediate. Instead we began to hear things like:

“No, you can’t go there….”

“Wait in your hotel until we call you.”

These statements were eventually followed by short outings accompanied by officials who ensured that whatever we saw was fully sanitized, and as far away as possible from the truly vulnerable populations in Vietnam who we really wanted to talk with.

After a full week of hearing every conceivable variation of “No,” our one official scheduled day with CPI arrived.

And suddenly, we began to hear “Yes.” Sure, we can go there. Do this. Look at case files. Select subjects. Copy files. Shoot interviews. Copy footage. Use the internet for communication. Share transportation. Talk about real issues. Even drink good coffee the entire time we were in the office.

We accomplished more in the one full day we spent with CPI than we did in three full weeks with other organizations in Vietnam.

Now to be fair, UXO, landmines and agent orange contamination are sensitive issues at the moment in Vietnam. Vietnam receives substantial funding from American groups with the intent to address munitions contamination and provide victim assistance, among other things. But at the moment, with a Vietnamese group filing a class action suit against US chemical manufacturers who produced Agent Orange during the war in Vietnam, the Vietnamese government is treading carefully.

Perhaps too carefully. Instead of fully acknowledging the continuing problems of UXO tampering in Vietnam and other related issues, (and likely opening the possibility of greater outside assistance in the future) the government is tightly controlling media access.

But why was our experience with CPI so different than with other organizations designed to provide the same services in Vietnam?

I believe it comes down to experience. CPI staff in Dong Ha town are savvy, educated, organized and trusted. Their work over time in the area speaks for itself. Countless civilian victims of war are living better lives because of their work. And the community knows it.

They are doing something worthwhile that isn’t being done by other groups in the area. And they are doing it actively, comprehensively, and with the intent to provide for civilian victims of war in Vietnam for many years to come. Why wouldn’t they want to share this with the media?

I just hope we are able to work our single day of footage with CPI into our film. If there is an organization in Vietnam that truly deserves a bit of publicity for their work, it’s CPI.

-Skye
Skye Fitzgerald, MFA
Producer, Epiphany Film
Fulbright Researcher
Email: skyefitzgerald@gmail.com

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The Way We Get By

Gita and Aron

Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet

2007-2008 Filmmakers in Residence

More About The Way We Get By (Trailer, Photos, Etc.)

http://www.thewaywegetbymovie.com

Visit The Way We Get By YouTube Page

http://www.youtube.com/user/TheWayWeGetByMovie

<!–Old Description
Gita Pullapilly is an award-winning television journalist and film producer. She has produced seven films in the U.S., Jordan and India. Her stories have aired on CBS, CNN and ABC. In 2006, Gita was selected as a participant in the Sundance Producers Conference at the Sundance Institute for The Way We Get By. Gita was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a B.B.A. in Finance and holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Award-winning director, screenwriter and editor, Aron Gaudet has worked on nine films in the United States, Jordan and India. He is directing Dungby Productions’ feature-length documentary film, The Way We Get By, which has been getting national attention, including a mention in U.S. News & World Report. In August 2006, Aron attended the Sundance Producers Conference at the Sundance Institute with Film Producer, Gita Pullapilly. Aron is a member of the International Documentary Association (IDA) and a graduate of New England School of Communication. He grew up in Old Town, Maine. Aron currently lives and works in Boston, MA.

Project Synopsis:

The Way We Get By is a documentary profiling three elderly troop greeters in Bangor, Maine, who despite tremendous obstacles, continue to greet troops day and night. The film is about the commitment, loyalty and sacrifice of a small group of elderly Americans, and the struggles and fears they endure while facing their own mortality.

The story unfolds through the eyes of a retired World War II veteran looking for a cure for his loneliness after the loss of his wife; a grandmother looking for someone to care for; and a jovial military veteran hiding the pain of losing his son. Each character in the film struggles to overcome the physical and emotional battles of growing old. They wrestle with loneliness, health, debt and grief. And yet, they find the courage to put their pain and fears aside and head to the airport time after time to greet complete strangers. We explore each character’s personal life – what it means to be old and living in America – and uncover their biggest secrets and their ultimate fears. In doing so, we are slowly able to realize why they actually greet homecoming soldiers. It is more than just supporting the troops. They come to fulfill their own basic needs. They come because it gives their lives a purpose they so greatly desire.

End Old Description –>

Gita Pullapilly is an award-winning television journalist and film producer. In 2008, she was inducted into the Royal Society of the Arts for her work as a filmmaker. She has produced stories in the U.S., Jordan and India for PBS, CBS, CNN and ABC. In 2006, Gita was selected as a participant in the Sundance Producers Conference at the Sundance Institute for The Way We Get By. In 2005, Gita was the first filmmaker chosen as a Fulbright Senior Scholar to Jordan. She is a member of IFP, IDA, Women in Film and Video, and the Color of Film Collaborative. Gita was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a B.B.A. in Finance and holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Award-winning director, screenwriter and editor, Aron Gaudet has worked on films in the United States, Jordan and India. In addition, Aron has produced Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins promotional spots for New England Sports Network (NESN). Aron has won numerous awards in television including a total of 5 Telly Awards, 2 Emmy nominations, 2 Vermont Association of Broadcasters awards, and a Michigan Association of Broadcasters award. He is directing Dungby Productions’ feature-length documentary film, The Way We Get By, which has been getting national attention, including a mention in U.S. News & World Report. In August 2006, Aron attended the Sundance Producers Conference at the Sundance Institute with Film Producer, Gita Pullapilly. Aron is a member of the International Documentary Association (IDA) and IFP and is a graduate of New England School of Communications (NESCOM).

Project Synopsis:

“When your time comes, whether you got a million people around you or there’s nobody…you’re still gonna go.” Bill Knight’s realization about his own inevitable death is at the heart of The Way We Get By, a story about three elderly people battling their greatest fears and finding a reason to live. The film examines the lives of three Maine Troop Greeters as they put their politics aside to keep a promise to support the American troops. The story’s three characters must overcome tremendous obstacles– health issues, emotional losses and financial difficulties– to live a life on-call, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, traveling to the airport to greet complete strangers. To date, the Maine Troop Greeters have greeted over 600,000 troops, as 75% of all soldiers and marines heading to and returning home from Iraq, fly through Bangor’s tiny airport.

The story is told through the eyes of BILL KNIGHT, an eccentric WWII veteran looking for a cure for his loneliness after the death of his wife. JOAN GAUDET, a 74-year-old woman who has spent her life taking care of her 8 children and 12 grandchildren and now must cope with the news that two of her grandchildren are headed to war. And JERRY MUNDY, a jolly veteran who spends most of his time talking about life with his best friend Mr. Flannigan…his dog.

Follow Production in the Lab Blog >

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