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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

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The Film “Becoming Bulletproof” Displays a Story of Disabled Excellence

Ose Emafo

A special screening of the film “Becoming Bulletproof” was hosted by Messina, the Center for Community, Service, and Justice, and the writing department in McGuire Hall West on Oct. 25. “Becoming Bulletproof” is an independent documentary film directed by Michael Barnett and was originally released in 2014. 

The film follows Zeno Mountain Farm, a nonprofit camp for men and women with physical and mental disabilities, and their efforts to create a film together, a western called “Bulletproof Jackson.”

“I love acting because I love submerging myself into a different person. It’s my first love,” AJ Murray said, one of the actors involved.

“Becoming Bulletproof” documents the behind the scenes work in the making of the film as well as the personal lives of each of the disabled actors involved, shedding light on how their disabilities affect their daily life and influence how they approach their creative work on “Bulletproof Jackson.” 

McGuire Hall West was filled to the brim with attendees, with snacks and concessions provided. Many were hooked by the film’s content. There were many laughs at the humorous moments surrounding the hijinks that would occur on the set of “Bulletproof Jackson.” In particular, one of the actors named Jeremy Vest was a noticeable favorite among the audience for his sense of humor and tendency to crack jokes. One example of this occurred onscreen during a mini-rant he makes about his dislike of being forced to eat beans many times for a scene. At the same time, there was a felt impact on the ongoing daily struggles of the actors, and how people with disabilities experience in their lives. 

After the movie ended, there was a special question and answer Zoom session featuring actor A.J. Murray. Murray, who suffers from cerebral palsy, shed much light as to what performing as a disabled actor meant to him. He gave insight into how he felt seeing himself on screen for the first time.

“It felt very emotional. I felt very overwhelmed in a good way,” Murray said. 

Murray also spoke on the topic of representation. 

“For people with disabilities, we’re 26% of the world’s population, and yet we’re only represented 2% on the screen and even less behind the scenes. What a lot of us say is, disability is diversity. We need to have more discussions and more representation on screen,” Murray said.

Indeed, it’s this necessity for representation of disabled voices that influenced the decision to screen this film, according to a host of the event Andrea Leary, a professor in Loyola’s writing department. Leary had much to say in regard to the importance of learning more about disabilities. 

“There are campus groups, a lot of different groups who work with people with disabilities. I think the key thing is about connection,” Leary said.  

Two of these campus groups include Advocates for Inclusion and Best Buddies. Elaborating further, Leary believes that the movie successfully builds a connection with the audience.

“One of the most important things in the film is hearing AJ say that we all want to be treated with respect and dignity. You get to hear about what people with disabilities think, rather than what someone else has to say about them,” Leary said.
AJ Murray continues to work in acting roles, as well as directing and producing. He has recently starred in the short film “Ten to One” which can be viewed on Youtube.

“Becoming Bulletproof” is currently available for streaming on Tubi, and can be rented or purchased on Amazon Prime video.

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