THE STORY

AMERICAN VETERAN is a feature length documentary telling the story of Army Sergeant Nick Mendes, who was paralyzed from the neck down by a massive improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011, when he was 21.

AMERICAN VETERAN follows Nick through the five year period after his injury — from the V.A. hospital bed where he spent 7 months recovering and learning to eat and even breathe on his own again, to the fully accessible home where he now lives with his new wife Wendy, a medical caregiver he met in the hospital. Presented in an unflinching, close-up style, the film brings us into Nick’s world as he studies for a real estate license and learns to do everything from posting on Facebook and playing video games to casting a fishing reel with his mouth. We’re with Nick as he endures an awkward Veterans Day parade and as he reunites with the soldier who pulled him from the truck just after it blew up.  We also trace the unlikely love story of Nick and Wendy as they develop a deep emotional and physical connection neither could have imagined. The film weaves together Nick’s past and present to show a nuanced portrait of a quadriplegic soldier’s sometimes harrowing, sometimes romantic and often surprisingly funny life.

THE STARS

Website - Nick headshot

NICK MENDES

Retired Army sergeant paralyzed from the neck down by an I.E.D. in Afghanistan.

“They say ‘Oh, you’re a hero for fighting for our freedom.’ I joined the army to get out of Missouri. I wasn’t trying to be a hero in any sense.”

Website - Wendy headshot

WENDY MENDES

Nick’s caregiver– and wife

“There was a lot of struggling for me, going into the relationship. But, the heart wants what it wants.”

DAVID MENDES

Nick’s dad. Quit his job to take care of Nick in the hospital.

“Yes, it was overwhelming but you never think ‘I’m gonna leave,’ you just think, ‘what do I gotta do next?'”

Website - Jon headshot

JON SCHUMACHER

Nick’s friend, a retired Marine, triple amputee and go-to wheelchair repairman.

“It’s very important to support each other and have each other’s back, just like in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Website - Chris headshot

CHRIS WOLFENBARGER

Co-founder of The Foundation for Exceptional Warriors (The FEW), which takes veterans on hunting and fishing trips.

“Once I get a warrior on my radar, I’m maniacal. That’s why the FEW exists; I’m going to help the veteran.”

AARON BAEZA

Nick’s platoon sergeant, who pulled him out of the vehicle after the I.E.D. explosion.

“I remember Mendes one way and now he’s another way. I’m glad he’s alive, that’s for sure.”

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THE FILMMAKERS

Director/Producercohen_julie

Julie Cohen

Julie Cohen, the founder of BetterThanFiction Productions, has directed, produced and written 10 documentaries, most recently The Sturgeon Queens – an official selection at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival, the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival, and more than 60 others and winner of 10 Audience Choice Awards; and I Live to Sing – Opening Night film at the 2014 American Documentary Film Festival and winner of the New York Emmy Award for Best Arts Program, one of three New York Emmys Julie has won since 2012.

Before starting her own production company, Julie was a staff producer at Dateline NBC for nine years, where she won the Individual Achievement Award for Best News Producer from American Women in Radio and Television and a DuPont-Columbia Award and was nominated for four national Emmys. She graduated from Colgate University and holds master’s degrees from Yale Law School and from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she is now an adjunct professor.


pink shirt nadineEditor and Field Producer

Nadine Natour

Nadine Natour is editor and field producer at BetterThanFiction Productions.  She produces, shoots, edits and create graphics effects for a wide variety of projects, including documentary features, newsmagazine pieces and book trailers. Nadine has edited and helped produce web features for The New York Times and investigative pieces for Dateline NBC. She is a 2012 graduate of the Columbia Journalism School and a 2012 – 2013 News Associate at NBC.

alexmitchellDirector of Photography

Alex Mitchell

Alex has been one of the Phoenix area’s most accomplished DPs for 20 years, working in news, documentaries, commercials and corporate videos. Since starting his own company, Image Equity, in 2003, he’s been the principal photographer on projects for film and broadcast clients including PBS, ABC, NFL Films and National Geographic. Alex is a cum laude graduate of Arizona State University.

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PRESS

A Paralyzed Veteran’s Path to Hope and Love – NPR’s The Takeaway

This Paralyzed Veteran’s Love Story Began in the VA Hospital – The Huffington Post

The Longest War in US History Began 15 Years Ago. See Its Effect on One Veteran. – TIME Magazine

How One American Veteran Uses Tech – Tech News Today

Disabled Veteran Finds Love After Injury – KSL NewsRadio

Documentary Tells Love Story of Quadriplegic ‘American Veteran’ – Orange County Register

VIDEOS

SCREENINGS

March 4 –New York, NYManhattan JCC, ReelAbilities Film Festival

March 5 – New York, NYIntrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, ReelAbilities Film Festival

Additional ReelAbilities screenings around the country

April 3 – Palm Springs, CAAmerican Documentary Film Festival

April 6 – Kansas City, MOKansas City Film Fest

April 18 – West Point, NY – West Point Military Academy

Week of April 21 – Riverside, CARiverside International Film Festival

April 22 – Syracuse, NY – Syracuse International Film Festival 

April 29 – Montclair, NJ – Montclair Film Festival

May 26 – Washington, DCGI Film Festival

Keep checking back for upcoming screenings!

CONTACT

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