Cleveland, Ohio – Michael Barnett’s documentary Becoming Bulletproof enjoyed an award winning presence at the 39th annual Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF), which wrapped up on March 29th. Becoming Bulletproof documents an inclusive cast featuring able-bodied and disabled actors as they work on a western film. The Mobility Resource first covered the movie after I interviewed Ajani Murray (read here).
CIFF39 offered two different opportunities to see Becoming Bulletproof, with an evening screening Thursday, March 26th and an afternoon one Friday, March 27th. I attended the latter. Arriving just a minute before the film started my friend and I experienced some trouble finding two empty seats next to each other, a testament to the crowd size.
The documentary starts with footage showing Ajani Murray at his home. He and his mother speak about how Ajani came across Zeno Mountain Farm, a camp where people with and without disabilities gather to make movies. As an aspiring actor Murray wanted in. He contacted Zeno Mountain Farm co-founder Will Halby but with no openings Halby essentially had to put Ajani on a waitlist.
Murray stayed persistent, contacting Halby again and again to see if an opening emerged. Finally one day the call came and off to Zeno Mountain Farm went Ajani. Timing seemed perfect too as that year’s project proved the most ambitious yet for Zeno Mountain Farm, a western flick titled Bulletproof.
At this point the viewer gets an inside look into those who make up Zeno Mountain Farm. Barnett manages to successfully weave multiple storylines into the documentary, from dating with a disability and the growth lead actor Jeremy Vest enjoyed since Zeno first started to an annual proposal and how the cast handled the frustration that came with a more ambitious project. All in all Becoming Bulletproof induces smiles, laughter, and even some tears.
Now Becoming Bulletproof differs from Zeno Mountain Farm’s western Bulletproof, a fact emphasized by the panel afterwards. The panel including Barnett, Will Halby, Murray, Vest, Zeno Mountain Farm co-founder Peter Halby, and Zach Gottsagen (who plays the main villain in Bulletproof) amongst others came out to a standing ovation. Audience questions covered topics like how Zeno Mountain Farm operates, where Murray currently stands with his acting career, where Gottsagen finds motive to play villains and more!
In addition to questions came direct compliments. One woman asked to come up and hug Ajani. Others just expressed their gratitude for what Zeno Mountain Farm does. Considering Becoming Bulletproof racked up three awards at CIFF39 (Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award for Best Film, Global Health Competition, and FilmSlam Student Choice Award for Best Feature Film) I speculate the documentary went over equally as well during the March 26th evening screening.
Clevelanders who missed out on seeing Becoming Bulletproof,will get second chances Saturday, May 2nd (8:45pm) and Sunday, May 3rd (6:30pm) when the film shows at Cleveland Institute of Art’s Cinematheque. For Becoming Bulletproof’s complete screening schedule, visit www.becomingbulletproofmovie.com. Learn more about Zeno Mountain Farm by visiting www.zenomountainfarm.com.
“CIFF39 Carryover: 7 festival films headed back to Cleveland,” Cleveland.com 04-02-2015