Film about BIA troop greeters to kick off midcoast festival

Posted Sept. 22, 2008, at 9:02 p.m.

The mission of the troop greeters at Bangor International Airport has been well-documented over the years as volunteers have cheered, waved flags and passed around cell phones for hundreds of thousands of troops returning to or leaving the United States.

Four years ago, filmmaker and Old Town native Aron Gaudet decided to turn his camera on the troop greeters themselves. Gaudet’s documentary film “The Way We Get By,” which follows three troop greeters including his mother, Joan Gaudet, will debut Thursday evening as the opening movie of the Camden International Film Festival.

Joan Gaudet, along with greeters Bill Knight and Jerry Mundy, are expected to attend the showing. But viewers shouldn’t expect many scenes of troops at the airport or greeters waving flags, Aron Gaudet cautioned. In fact, only about 20 percent of the film takes place at the airport.

Instead, the focus is on the lives of the troop greeters, many of whom are senior citizens who deal with the health, social and economic issues that affect that age group. The work the subjects do as troop greeters, Gaudet said, gives them a reason to work through their own problems.

“It became a movie about growing old, and the issues and struggles of the elderly and senior citizens,” said Gaudet, who now lives in Brookline, Mass., where he works fulltime as a filmmaker with his company Dungby Productions. “It could have been really depressing, but with them there was great inspiration and an uplifting story. They fought through all their struggles because they wanted to get to the airport and greet the troops.”

That’s what Gaudet’s mother found, he said, when she became involved with the troop greeters several years ago. He accompanied Joan Gaudet to BIA one afternoon in 2004 to watch the greeters.

“It was just really an emotional thing, seeing the troops come in,” Gaudet said.

Gaudet, who was living in Michigan at the time, shared his experience with television colleagues Gita Pullapilly (now Gaudet’s fiancee) and Dan Ferrigan, a Winslow native with whom Gaudet had worked at WVII-TV in Bangor. The three jumped on the idea of a documentary.

Gaudet serves as the film’s director. Ferrigan is the cinematographer, and Pullapilly is the producer and did the interviews. The film is 93 minutes long in its rough form, but Gaudet wants to get it down to 75-80 minutes so it can be submitted to film festivals in 2009.

“We want to get a sense of what works,” he said. “We figured it would be good to have [a showing] in Maine, to see how a Maine audience reacts.”

Gaudet hopes others will watch the movie and feel inspired to do what the troop greeters did in finding an activity that enriches their lives and the lives of others.

“It’s really about what you have to do to put purpose in your life,” he said. “For us, we’re just hoping that any senior citizen around the country sees it and thinks, ‘Maybe I can go out and find something in my community that I can pour my life into and get something out of.’”

“The Way We Get By” will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25, at the Strand Theatre in Rockland. Individual tickets are $8.50. For ticket information, go to www.camdenfilmfest.org or call 798-0405. For more information about the film, go to www.thewaywegetbymovie.com.

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