Becoming Bulletproof (2014): Teaching Humanity Through Art (Review)

Grim, villain in Bulletproof Jackson

Documentaries can be dull as dishwater or have that lecturing you feel that is guaranteed to put one off completely from whatever message or concept they are selling. “Becoming Bulletproof” does not do either of these things. Rather, they teach the viewer humanity under the guise of art, or in the case of this documentary, taking us behind the scenes where the educational art is being made.

Zeno Mountain Farms makes one short film per year. The artists and creatives who make the films do so sans pay. The stars of the movies are various “disabled” actors and the “able bodied” staff play supporting roles on top of helping to care for their talent.  It is a unique, and before now  unknown organization to Mike’s Film Talk at any rate, that works off the premise that money should not govern art, just as certain human difficulties should not hinder people from performing.

At its base, the group’s philosophy is clear, anyone can contribute to art and for those who have the focus to follow through their personal dreams despite suffering from conditions that society deem “unworthy.”  Zeno Mountain Farms makes dreams become reality.

This documentary was put together in 2014, after which it ran the festival circuit where it won seven awards and was nominated for three more,  was helmed by Michael Barnett.  It should be noted that the movie being filmed, in the documentary, was “Bulletproof” filmed, and released in 2012 and that David Arquette had a cameo role in the short film.

Rotten Tomatoes gave “Becoming Bulletproof” a 100 percent “fresh” rating and the overall comments and reviews about the documentary were favorable and mentioned the word “inspirational” several times.  One word not used was educational.

And it should have been. As a teaching aid to the “normal” of society, it is priceless.   Certainly the film shows the difficulties and almost insurmountable problems that the disabled face everyday but more importantly, it shows that they are not different because of the issues they must overcome.

These challenged people are the same as the able-bodied of the world.

Each one, from A.J. who suffers from Cerebral Palsy, to Alec; who has Williams Syndrome, has dreams, aspirations and sees the world as we do; the “non-challenged” of the world.  Yes it is inspirational to see these hard working people complete their film and attend the premiere.

More than having a feel good factor of 100 percent however is the value of teaching the world of these actors’ normalcy. For, despite everything,  they are.

Being a documentary, “Becoming Bulletproof” spends much time interacting with those behind and in front of the camera. The Zeno Mountain Farms staff and the performers all talk about the project, the organization, each other and the sheer joy of allowing everyone to make art “happen.”

By the end of the documentary  it is indeed inspirational and one may find that a little sentimental tear may be rolling down a cheek or two. However, as stated elsewhere in this review, it is the power of the message; the teaching of the uneducated that counts here. The use of arts to teach humanity.

If one takes nothing else from this documentary is should be this:  People are people, regardless of the skin they are in or the difficulties that they face.

Zeno Mountain Farms, and all who sail her, we salute you for your effort, your art and your dedication.  This is a 5 star documentary.  You will walk away feeling good, and possibly with a big soppy grin on your face,  but entertained and educated you will be and that, that is a good thing.

Steaming on Showtime and Hulu at the moment. Do not miss this one.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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