Faces of Forgotten heroes – April 11, 1944  UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN – Forgotten Faces of Our Dead Heroes won internal prizes at our film school

Faces of Forgotten heroes – April 11, 1944

GRADUATE FILM SCHOOL PROPOSAL 2006 – An excerpt from the commentary notes section of George Maynard’s Portfolio

As noted in appendix III (curriculum vitae/filmography), I have produced and directed four films during the bachelor phase of my arts & sciences schooling. Broadly categorized as experimental, they’re the acid tests of my cinematic awareness and represent my academic search for both voice and vision. The quadruplet of short movies, each ranging in duration between seven to eight minutes, is listed below in the screening order of presentation to the departmental faculty jury:

1) Faces of Forgotten Heroes (2002),

2) Dark Sides of the Trees (2004),

3) Old Dollar: The Ballad of Billy (2003),

4) The Agony of the Ecstasy (2002).

The screening presentation order follows a personal logic that reflects a meaningful and tragic family history. It begins with my deeply personal documentary, entitled “Faces of Forgotten Heroes,” which deals with controversial issues about how we honor our war dead. Originally made as a silent film in Prof. Marjorie Morton’s FILM I class [Concordia 2002-3], this 16 mm b&w short, partially visceral but certainly imaginative, offers the viewer an historical and yet personal perspective on the posthumous rituals conducted during and after the war.

“Faces of Forgotten Heroes” structures its spotted narrative upon a photo-montage presentation, into which the camera stylo emerges as relevant participant in the form of a fictional character. In this hybrid form, the film depicts revealing moments as well as historical artifacts from the lives of two U.S. Air Force aviators, both of whom sacrifed themselves in their own particular way for the fight for freedom during WWII.

Early in the movie we catch a glimpse of an old photograph of three men sitting with a huge dog, a rack of instruments covers the wall behind them. Clearly two of them face the camera and yet, the viewer’s attention is attracted to the central figure, his smile leads the way. This relaxed man, one of the protagonist in the film, is my deceased stepfather, Horace Castillo. Before war’s end, he was training as a radar navigator in a B-29 bomber, practicing mocked missions up and down the coast of California, for the prospective invasion of Japan. Fortunately for him but not for others, A-bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thus ending the war. Though he survived, the tales he recounted later, clearly indicated that some of himself still died in that horrible war.

Later in the movie we see another old photograph. Here, we have a truly visceral moment where the ritual of the posthumous tradition is shown. Pointedly, an elderly woman receives the medals of war and certificates of honor directly from the executive hands of the USAF general. The lady in the photograph, Eva Pelletier, is the mother of another man in this film, Sergeant Paul Pelletier, B17 radio gunner, who did not make it back from the war. Threaded into this part of the film is the literal presence of, as well as, the literary handling of the alphabet of old photographs by the camera stylo.

A moving spirit working from within, fully fictionalized from inside the story, like a weary combatant still alive after a long tour of duty, the camera stylo writes its way back to its ancestral home. And like an old work horse pulling the plow that overturns the field, his performance seems to express the “act of closing the book” on those awful events that occured in the lives of the people depicted. Will we ever close forever the book of war?

In what was to be one of the Allies’ greatest bombing missions, the U.S. War Department came to believe that the entire crew of Sergeant Paul Pelletier’s B-17 bomber group, after a bombing mission to annihilate certain industrial complexes around Poznan Poland, died in an unseen crash into the Baltic Sea. Departmental archives mention that they were hit by heavy flak by German anti-aircraft artillery aimed at them from re-enforced bunkers located in Rostock, Germany, while they were returning home to England.

It may not be fully evident to the viewer but the film’s momentary glimpse at Lieutenant Horace Castillo (a survivor) is contrasted with a much longer look at Sergeant Paul Pelletier (a victim). The “carry through” implications of his death are consequentially far reaching and universally felt, for it is emblematic of the death of our own society and culture, the whole civilized world, that we irreparably kill ourselves, little by little, every time we go to war; not to mention the ravage we do to the land, air and water.

If a moral to this story exits, it does so through the images presented therein. For that particular section of the film, where we see a grief stricken mother receive her son’s posthumous war medal from a high ranking U.S. military officer, purple bronze or silver, does it really matter, one wonders? But still, it’s the country’s way to honor and offer a bit of gratitude, “honor” and “gratitude” written down on the accompanying certificate (not shown in the film). We can’t help but feel the heavy burden carried by this woman, and the long term effects this personal tragedy had on her continued existence.

So it is that Sergeant Paul Pelletier’s early demise tragically affected the life of his surviving family, especially his mother, causing her to become hopelessly sick in body, heart and mind, sending her to a premature death. Truly, the far reaching time implications of war are quite severe, not just for the proximate victims, but, so too, for generations to come.

We sincerely hope that you can appreciate the small effort which has been subtly presented in this film; for that woman turns out to be my grandmother, another person whom I never knew. Morally, the camera stylo takes pause, when it asks you too, the ultimate questions: “Whom am I, really?” and “Will we ever close forever the book of war?”