WOODSTOCK – Woodstock resident Marty Klein has shown his documentary film “Why Can’t We Serve” 12 times during the last two years.
He seemed to be looking intently at the screen, behind a set of thick dark round-lensed eyeglasses at a recent screening in Saugerties. Among the audience of around 50, at least one vet who spoke with Klein before the movie began, had no idea that Klein is completely blind.
By the time screening ended 52 minutes later, all understood that Klein saw better than anyone else in the room. As producer, writer and director of “Why Can’t We Serve,” Klein visualized his work before this creation ever began.
Klein appears to be the first blind filmmaker on Earth. “I was always in charge of everything, from soup to nuts,” he explained, describing the process of working with cinematographer Mike Nelson. He edited interviews by listening to audio tracks on a voice-activated computer.
Klein noted that a lot of sightless book authors point out the burden of being blind. That wasn’t his angle.
“I wanted to make a movie that was going to really help — not to focus on my blindness, but the possibilities of people with disabilities, because right now the military does not honor people with disabilities the way that I think they could.”
Klein noted every business and corporation in America is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the military is not.
He was careful to not disparage or embarrass the armed forces in his presentation but he did point out that on average, 22 veterans commit suicide every day, a trend that the military establishment has spent over $1 billion attempting to reverse, yet admittedly failed.
The film seeks to change military policy, allowing disabled vets to continue their service in a non-combat role, rather than receive automatic discharge. Beyond that, the documentary demonstrates to a wider audience, that one need not have eyesight, to share vision; need not have arms, to lend a hand; or have legs, to run for public office.
Familiar faces in the film include former Congressman Chris Gibson; Kingston Veterans Association Chairman Bill Forte; Marty Klein himself; plus several others. Included was also an inspirational original song.
While the film covered heavy subject matter, the panel discussion held afterward was even more profound, lasting longer than the film itself. Nobody left the room, while the panelists and the audience took turns sharing their own personal stories of fear, loss of identity, and total despair, dwelling unseen beneath a public image of honor, courage, pride and glory.
Klein said he wanted to know how his film affected the audience. Modifications may be added to a later version, and the team is seeking distributors, celebrity endorsements, and opportunities to screen at other locations.
Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra offered to show the film at the Mid-Hudson Chiefs of Police Association, to 70 department heads including Westchester County. As association president, Sinagra said he thought the film would be helpful for cops, who often suffer similar stresses including PTSD, catastrophic injury, and suicide.
More information can be found on www.whycantweserve.com