by Roger Zotti
In Honor Respect Remember, filmmaker Steve DePolito, Preston, set out to have viewers “see a display of patriotism without politics and observe people gathering simply to honor the fallen, respect those who served and remember their service to our country.” Clearly, Steve accomplished his goal – for his film resonates with viewers long after it’s seen. “Its title is taken from the American Veterans Traveling Tribute’s website and could be considered the group’s mission statement,” Steve added.
The documentary – which Steve wrote, produced, and directed – is about the AVTT’s five day visit to Norwich, in June, last year. “The Norwich VFW, Post 594, sponsored the visit,” Steve said. “It coincided with Norwich’s 350th birthday celebration. An 80% replica of the Vietnam Memorial, referred to as ‘the Wall,’ is the AVTT’s centerpiece. There were other displays honoring the men and women who fought in America’s wars and also those lost in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.”
For Steve, the most challenging part of the project was “filming the five days pretty much on my own. What really helped was the additional video – which my wife Sherri filmed – of the parade from Montville to Norwich on the event’s first day, and also the still photos Dominic Cortese took at various times during the event.” Steve filmed close to five hours of video, he said, “to produce a 27 minute film. In Brewster’s Neck, my film about Norwich Hospital, I filmed 10 hours to make a 60 minute film. But that’s how it goes.”
It was impossible to make a film of this type, Steve explained, “without people making speeches – since speeches were a big part of the event. But I kept them to a minimum; and with the ones I used, I conveyed a sense of continuity.” The speakers “covered WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the present day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The only speech Steve didn’t edit was Robert Howard, Jr’s affecting remarks on the loss of his father 40 years ago in Vietnam.
Documentarian Ken Burns is one of Steve’s influences. “Actually, it’s hard not to be influenced by him,” Steve said. Others influences are Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarrentino. “A technique I used in this and prior projects were sudden, dramatic transitions from one scene to another. If you’ve seen Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, you know what I’m talking about – though my transitions aren’t as dramatic as the ones in those films.”
Steve continued, “The narration I scripted was nicely done by Johnny London, the ‘voice of Norwich’ for over 30 years.” Mark Wayne produced the narration. (Johnny and Mark also worked with Steve on the documentaries Brewster’s Neck and America’s Only Hope (which is about Johnny E. Kelley’s 1957 Boston Marathon victory.) The film will be screened on Norwich Comcast, April 21, at 4:00 pm, and April 23, 4:00 pm. Copies are now available at Otis Library, Norwich. Honor Respect Remember has been placed in the Norwich Time Capsule and will be opened in 2059.