Why shouldn’t everyone who loves movies have a chance to make a film?
In Becoming Bulletproof, director Michael Barnett follows Zeno Mountain Farm’s annual feature film production as the small independent company sets out to shoot its first western, Bulletproof. What sets Zeno apart is its dedication to casting actors and actresses with diverse needs and disabilities. Teaming up with able-bodied cast and crew, the stars of the movie learn to memorize their lines, hit their marks, and work within the sometimes stressful environment of a movie set.
Barnett portrays his subjects with a sensitivity that never feels exploitative or sentimentalized, giving many of the featured players screentime to discuss their day-to-day lives or why they return year after year to Zeno. Most of those interviewed praise a community that allows for friendships to grow and even a few romances to spark. Some may come back looking to try their hand at bigger roles, like children’s theater teacher and perennial onscreen bad guy Zach. “I want us to have a seat at pop culture,” says A.J., a young man with cerebral palsy pursuing his dream of becoming an actor.
Becoming Bulletproof extols that virtue of inclusivity by not only showing the diverse actors onscreen, but giving them the chance to share their behind-the-scenes stories as well. Unfortunately, the documentary never transcends its rather conventional structure, relying instead on the do-good intentions of its audience to see it through.
Directed by Michael Barnett
Opens September 25, IFC Center
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 22, 2015