Writer/director Marty Papazian did plenty of research on his military-themed film “Least Among Saints,” set to make its world debut at the G.I. Film Festival next week.
Papazian endured a modified version of boot camp, pored over military books highlighting the soldier’s experience, and talked to veterans who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
But he knew his homework wouldn’t be enough to ensure “Saints” was as authentic as possible. So he recruited a friend, someone who had done four tours in the military, to lend a hand on set and make sure the details were as on-target as feasible.
“I felt duty-bound as an artist to tell their stories,” Papazian tells Big Hollywood.
The film, to be screened at 2 p.m. May 19 at the G.I. Film Festival in Washington, D.C., follows the unique bond between a distraught military veteran (Papazian) just home from the war front and a teen (Tristan Lake Leabu) crying out for help.
“Saints” evolved out of two elements from Papazian’s life. He drew upon the friendships he had forged with military veterans over the years and figured one of his film’s characters would be a veteran based on the people he had met along the way. But he also wanted to incorporate time he spent with a local teen he mentored, “Big Brother”-style, years ago.
“My buddies and I would take him surfing,” he said of the lad. “I thought about it – what would it be like for these two people to come together?”
Papazian was intrigued by the contradictions found in the modern soldier.
“They’re professional killers. They‘re capable of incredible amounts of violence … and yet they were coming home and raising another man’s children with another wife, things of that nature ... the humanity and beauty, that dichotomy, really struck me.”
Papazian, whose acting credits include a small role in the upcoming “Amazing Spider-Man” feature, says a number of film festivals have expressed interest in “Saints” beyond its upcoming D.C. screening.
He hopes the film will strike a redemptive cord with audiences, showing that while a soldier's time on the battlefield can't be changed, "so much can be done" with their future, he says.