Professor Bernardi Discusses 'Star Trek,' Documentaries on Veterans, Cinema Studies

Monday, May 15, 2017

STUFF (NEW ZEALAND) -- Bernardi does not just talk about films — he makes films. As the director of the Veterans Documentary Corps at San Francisco State University, he has produced or directed more than 20 short films about U.S. military veterans. He is screening four of them in Christchurch this week. Subjects range from a U.S. soldier who liberated a Nazi concentration camp to the military’s “"don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy on gays and lesbians to the stories of a combat cameraman and a conscientious objector.

The conscientious objector film captures some of the disillusionment about how the military was used after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. As a Navy Reserve, Bernardi experienced the same disillusionment. He did a tour in Iraq in 2009 and 2010 but “found the Iraq War shameful and based on a lie.”.

Bernardi spent a month in Vietnam before and interviewed Viet Cong veterans for a possible feature-length documentary about the Vietnam War from the North Vietnamese side..

Even the short trailer is harrowing. There is the woman describing torture by the South Vietnamese, approved by the U.S. There is a man talking about the prison guard who wore a necklace of human teeth. There is the post-traumatic stress disorder survivor who collapses and starts to convulse while the camera is running..

As well as teaching a science-fiction class, he teaches a documentary class. And here is another purpose of cinema studies: knowing how to interpret and demystify a documentary is a vital skill in a time of fake news and reality television..

“The desire for people to know and learn about their world is easily manipulated,” Bernardi says.