Noble Sissle’s Syncopated Ragtime: Festival Run & Awards

Combining unseen period footage with original scores from that era, Syncopated Ragtime tells the story of Noble Sissle incredible life journey that spans “The Harlem Hellfighters” of World War I, Broadway Theatre, the Civil Rights movement, and decades of Black cultural production. The film inquires on the Black people’s struggle for democracy by challenging America’s social, economic and political structures.

Noble Sissle’s Syncopated Ragtime is having a successful festival presence. Directed by Daniel Leonard Bernardi and David De Rozas, Syncopated Ragtime has been awarded Best Short Documentary Film. 8th American Documentary Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA.

25_Noble Sissle_s Syncopated Ragtime 07.jpg

Noble Sissle’s Syncopated Ragtime has been the Official Selection of the following U.S. festivals.

Forthcoming screenings in U.S. Festivals include:

25_Noble Sissle_s Syncopated Ragtime 19.jpg

Forthcoming screenings in International Festivals include:

General Public screenings include:

  • World War I Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, Missouri, April 2019
  • Imperial Implosions: World War I and its Global Implications: California State University Channel Islands, Camarillo, CA, November, 2018; Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, October 2018; Christchurch, New Zealand, October 2018


Noble Lee Sissle, Jr.
Trevor Getz , Professor Of History At San Francisco State University

All Songs By Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake And Jim Europe’s 369th Infantry “Hellfighters” Band

Directed by Daniel Leonard Bernardi and David De Rozas
Executive Producer, Daniel Leonard Bernardi
Producers, Trevor Getz And Carolina Gratianne
Editor And Sound Design, David De Rozas
Director Of Photography, Andrés Gallegos
Additional Camera, Alexander Zane Irwin
Sound Recordist, Sreang Hok
Production Assistant, Jesse Collier Sutterley
Camera Assistant, Suhnny Stone Carter Bernardi
Post-production Supervisor, Sreang Hok
Colorist, Andrés Gallegos
Sound Mix, Dan Olmsted
Consultants Jonathan R. Casey and Craig Perrier

The American War: Screenings in Ha Noi and Da Nang, Vietnam (Part 2)

On June 8th and 15th, Director Daniel Bernardi, Producer Trang Tran, and Sound Recordist and Designer Warren Haack screened their documentary The American War in Ha Noi and Da Nang, Vietnam. Shot in Vietnam in 2016, this documentary tells the story of the Vietnam War from the point of view of six Vietcong veterans, explaining why they fought and how they live with their battlefield scars. “Our return is to fulfill a promise I made to all the subjects in the film and the crew.  It is not easy to screen a film in front of people featured in it; you don’t want to fail them, especially when you represent the country that, as war always goes, caused them so much pain,” said Bernardi.

The screenings attracted a diverse group of thinkers, filmmakers, students, scholars, and activists. Especially in Da Nang, all of the Vietcong veterans in the film were present with their families.

3. Screening_DN.png
Attendees of The American War screening in Da Nang, June 15, 2019



Thank you so much for making such a thoughtful and meaningful film about the war Vietnamese people had to go through. I thank you for incorporating all the six subjects to reflect a compilation of what the war has done to us. I respect the artistic approach and I love how you chose the music. I thank you for going out of your way to collect all these precious archival footage which tell our stories so truthfully and vividly. The war was horrible. I myself lived through the Tet offensive, and how you depicted the brutality of it pulled me to the edge of my seat. But then watching this film, I saw the hope shined through the horrible violence, suffering, and loss. The image of apricot flowers ready to blossom was a fitting choice to show such hope,” expressed an attendee of the screening in Da Nang. 


The Q&A was especially meaningful with audience members asking many tough but insightful questions. Below are some questions and responses leading the conversation between audience and the crew. This is Part 2. 


The war was a long time ago. Can you tell us how you were able to tease out these thoughts and feelings from the veterans given the short period time you spent in Vietnam?

Bernardi: Unlike fiction filmmaking in which everything is planned out, in our work, the process is to discover. The trust, therefore, is important. Also, these people are so different, their stories and views, and the ways they shared were all different. Like with Mai [the guerilla], a truly courageous woman, it wasn’t easy for me to talk to her. She was so intense that after interviewing her, I got really sick and couldn’t work for the rest of that day. The trick, though, is to build trust. I asked the subjects the same questions three or four times in different settings. It wasn’t because I didn’t believe them. Instead, I wanted them to believe me. I wanted to make them comfortable in sharing the stories of their fighting, sacrifices, pain, and forgiveness.

Haack: In a way, documentary is harder than narrative films. You go out and think you have an intention but things happen and you have to be honest enough to say that wasn’t what is happening.

Bernardi: People have different interview techniques. For me, I have no notes. If I read the questions to you, you will think you are in an exam. So, I don’t do that. I always shoot with two cameras. Spend three days on each subject, two days for interviewing and one day for b-roll. Flex if you don’t have the second day. For example, Loi [My Lai massacre victim] wasn’t ready to share with me his story at first. It took a lot more for me to get his trust. We spent a day going to his mother’s house where we had a meal with him and developed great conversations. I also let my crew ask questions. Warren is the sound guy, he listens to everything. He knows my rhythm and knows I will forget something. When he asks questions, he adds a great perspective. Or the cinematographer, as he looks close to the subject, he sees when they twist or get sad. In the last two interviews, he asked questions and the subjects cried answering. 

“Unlike fiction filmmaking in which everything is planned out, in our work, the process is to discover.”

What is your message? And how has the movie been received by the audience? 

Bernardi: We are here now, really for the subjects who presented in the film. We promised them we will come back. About the message, my take is they [Vietnamese veterans] think your generation is moving pass this experience too fast. By watching this film, we hope it will slow you down and realize that the beautiful and peaceful country you are living in today – a part of it came from their sacrifice. That resonates with me – an outsider. Our country has been at war for too long and it’s hard to penetrate the young mind. The U.S. dropped more bombs in Vietnam more than it did in WWI & II and Korean War all together; 58 thousand Americans died here, by cancer and suicide back home. In the U.S., the film just came out of festivals and it was shown in a few states. People who are socially conscious thanked us for making this film.

For the American Veterans of the Vietnam War, I’m happy to say, they appreciate it. More than anybody, they are aware of the pain they caused. For the Vietnamese American population who fled the South, half of them hated it. They walked out in the middle of the film. They are not used to seeing the Vietcong represented so thoughtfully. To them, Communists are bad who they lost their country to, so this film is hard for them. For the second generation [of the Vietnamese immigrants], it was the whole different reaction. It was like “nobody ever told me these things” and “no wonder why they fought so hard”. For you, I hope you liked it. Other cultures have a lot to learn from you and I hope you see that. 

9. filming TAW_1.jpg
The American War crew members and the children at the Protection Center for Victim of Agent Orange, Da Nang back in January 2017
The American War poster

You asked me about the impacts from the government in this film. I have something to add into that. They didn’t let us interview any person who worked for the South Vietnam. We wanted to do it at the beginning, but then we sat down and thought this is actually a blessing. Let’s respect your government. Let’s not open the wound and let’s tell the Americans why the Vietcong fought. It’s like “You are hurting us. This is our land and get the hell out.” 

You said making the movie is a journey of discovery. What did you discover for yourself which might help you recover from your own horrific experience in Iraq? 

Bernardi: Filmmaking is therapeutic. It saves my mind because the war I experienced was horrible. I could have quit [when I received the order to go to Iraq] but that seemed to lack honor. After my deployment, I had PTSD and still had to be a good dad [smile]. It was hard. Since then, I have made and involved in 40 something short films and I’m in my 3rd feature. Making films about these incredible people helped me to stop thinking about myself. One percent U.S population serves in the military, and less than that serves in combat. I hope my films bring more empathy for the veterans. Up-to-date, I’m glad to see how this process has helped my fellow veterans.

It seems like the U.S hasn’t learned from its mistakes. It’s no longer the case in Vietnam but the U.S army is still intervening in other countries. And it seems that Americans aren’t aware of the consequences of the pain they cause to people in these countries. What impacts do you want to make, if any?

Bernardi: We want our audiences to understand the length of sacrifice people will go through to protect their villages, homes, families and independence. We also want American audiences, but really all viewers, to engage governments and ensure that the only justification for war is a response to an invasion and attack. Countries have a right to defend themselves. They have no right to invade and kill irrespective of their respective political systems.


Following the screening, the subjects took turns to talk about their thoughts. They applauded the work ethics, and the creativity of crew members which “make it [the movie] so truthful, emotional, and compelling”. Vo Cao Loi, who survived the My Lai Massacre and subject in The American War revealed: “It is so great seeing you again. We met back in 2016 when you all came to interview me and other five Vietnamese veterans … but it has been a while and I wasn’t sure when I would see you again. After watching this film for the first time, I think you did a great job of staying with the truth. I’m so pleased to see how the stories were interwoven– from totally different characteristics, missions, and lives of the Vietnamese people during the war against the U.S and making 54 minutes of fascinating storytelling. I thought the use of illustration and animation was such an excellent decision – it didn’t only depict suffering, pain, and loss in another level but also enticed further thoughts about what happened back then. I hope this film will reach more audiences in Vietnam and all over the world so people will have the opportunity to hear the story from our perspectives, why we fought and how we fought.” In light of the impression of the subjects about the film, Bernardi added “I think they [the subjects] were pleasantly surprised by the animation and sound design. I could see they were touched, and that is a compliment that is more meaningful to me than any other!” 

Even though they read and heard about the war their grandparents fought against the U.S in the textbooks and media, young audiences acknowledged The American War was a unique experience. It gave them the chance to relate with their country’s heroes in a personal and meaningful level. 

The American War just finished its festival round. The film has been screened in Indonesia, India, New Zealand, the U.S, and Vietnam. The crew is looking to distribute the film via television in Vietnam and internationally. 

Learn more about The American War, crew members, and Order a copy of our film here. Subscribe El Dorado Films Youtube channel here . For more information, please contact: Daniel Bernardi at and 415.741.7892.

The American War: Screenings in Ha Noi and Da Nang, Vietnam (Part 1)

On June 8th and 15th, Director Daniel Bernardi, Producer Trang Tran, and Sound Recordist and Designer Warren Haack screened their documentary The American War in Ha Noi and Da Nang, Vietnam. Shot in Vietnam in 2016, this documentary tells the story of the Vietnam War from the point of view of six Vietcong veterans, explaining why they fought and how they live with their battlefield scars. “Our return is to fulfill a promise I made to all the subjects in the film and the crew.  It is not easy to screen a film in front of people featured in it; you don’t want to fail them, especially when you represent the country that, as war always goes, caused them so much pain,” said Bernardi.

1. Screening DN.jpg
Welcome table with The American War poster and flyers, Blurays & DvDs, and books published about the subjects featured in the documentary
2. Screening_HN.png
Attendees of The American War screening in Ha Noi, June 8, 2019


“This was the test to our film: Would a Vietnamese audience find an American story of the war from the Vietcong perspective meaningful and accurate?” Daniel Bernardi, director.


The Q&A was especially meaningful with audience members asking many tough but insightful questions. Below are some questions and responses leading the conversation between audience and the crew.


How did you come up with the idea of this film? 

Bernardi: I’m a filmmaker and a veteran of the Iraq war. The experience of my deployment back in 2010 was dramatic for me and for my fellow American veterans. I wanted to make a film about the war but wasn’t quite ready to make a film about us [American veterans coming back from Iraq] not only because it was too close to me but also because I didn’t believe in telling a story from the perspectives of an invading country. In 2012, when I came to Vietnam for the first time, I met a lot of Vietnamese people and I was surprised by the generosity of the people here. We killed 1.1 million Vietnamese in the war, but here you are so generous to us. Your resilience and intensity impressed me. 

As a film maker, I appreciate and thank you for your film– such an emotional and thoughtful piece of work. I would like to know how did you choose your characters? And what were the impacts of the Vietnamese government in that process?

Bernardi: It would be easy for me to make a film about American perspectives, but I wanted to challenge my crew. In the U.S., we would never dream of having anybody from the government intervening in our filmmaking process. When we came to Vietnam, we applied and received the permit from your government’s Bureau of Foreign Affairs. Hence, their staff stayed with our crew at all locations. The bios of subjects, questions, locations, shooting time – all the following were submitted and approved by the Vietnamese government. At first, we were uncomfortable because we want to be honest. We don’t want to be told what we can do and what not.

It didn’t take us long, however, to realize the government wasn’t there to tell us what to do, but to make sure we respected the veterans and that we were safe. They [the veterans] are your heroes – we get that – so we respect their [the government staff] presence. The local police was also there. In one of our scenes, when the informant had a seizure and fainted, one of the police men who was sitting through our shoot helped to grab her head. We recognized it all came down to trust. Once they knew the reason we were here, they opened all the doors for us. 

In terms of choosing subjects, I told my producer, Trang, that I wanted to tell a story about the Vietnamese view of the war. It must have people who served in the Tet offensive; those who built the Ho Chi Minh trail, torture, the battle, suffering and loss, and Agent Orange among others. Hanh [Associate Producer] then helped us pick the subjects through his networking. He found six honorable veterans representing different service branches and roles in the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, two of them passed away prior to our arrival to Vietnam. So we found two others during the time we were shooting: the leader of the long-haired army and the soldier. We chose them because their stories were so compelling. Another challenge we dealt with was purchasing archival footage. We weren’t into using American propaganda in this film. Hence, we set out to buy the footage shot by the Vietcong. That took us a lot of time and negotiation, but we got it in the end. 

4. Screening_HN.jpg
Warren Haack (left), Daniel Bernardi (middle), and Trang Tran (right) led the Q&As
“It didn’t take us long, however, to realize the government wasn’t there to tell us what to do, but to make sure we respected the veterans and that we were safe.”

Can you tell us what made you decide to use the illustration throughout this film?

Bernardi: Documentary filmmaking entails not only interviewing. Our biggest challenge is boring the audience. Hence, we incorporated illustration, archival footage, sound design, music, etc. There was no better way to show the cruelty and pain caused by the war. It’s an irony but art works better in conveying such emotions. More to that, film is meant to be seen and heard, so Warren [Sound Recordist & Designer] spent about a couple months designing and mixing all the sound you just heard throughout the film [except the interviews themselves] as all the archival and b-roll footage came without sound. 

5. screening HN.jpg
An illustration of torture in The American War on the big screen. Illustration by Jian Giannini
6. screening HN.jpg
Phạm Thị Thao, a long-haired army captain, featured in The American War. Photo by Andres Gallegos and illustration by Jian Giannini

It sounds like your post-production was done with a great amount of work and meticulous attention to details. What was your budget? I would also like to have your advice for young filmmakers like us on this aspect. 

Bernardi: It’s expensive. I would say the entire film cost $100 grand. Too often filmmakers let the money get into their way. I don’t. And a lot of that was thanks to my crew. They took much less money because they believed in the project. When you have a great idea and passion – even if you don’t have enough – find a better way. 

Haack: I did the sound [for this film]. This is the completion of the journey I started back in the 70s. I hate war, I protested against the war. I was drafted but I failed the physical and thank God it kept me out of it.

Bernardi: When I knew I was going to make this film, I told them: “Hey, you want to go to Vietnam? Work 14 hours a day [smile]. Wanna have fun?” Bring people who you care and trust. Like the cinematographer, Andres – He’s from Chile. All the changes in focus you saw in the film – it wasn’t me – it was him who made the decision. He enjoyed his time in Vietnam, and on his day off, he brought the camera and filmed all over the places. I wasn’t there when he filmed a lot of b-roll. For example, the image of the Buddha in the pond and the water-lily. The first time I saw that footage in the post-production room, I fell in love right away. For Warren, I brought him not only because he’s excellent in what he does but also because I know for his generation, this war was the most painful experience. It was immoral, just like my experience with the Iraq war. I related with him and invited him to join.

I saw the parentage of Buddhism in this film, like the Buddha, praying in front of the altars, some of the music. Could you elaborate about these choices? And why did you choose the image of apricot flower, instead of cherry blossom in your film?

Bernardi: First, about the flower, we chose it because it was the flower of the area – or so we were told – and the time when we were in Danang [approaching Tet]. More to that, the meaning of the flower resonates with one of our themes.

7. TAW Flower.png
The blossoming apricot flower in The American War. Framed by Andres Gallegos

Bernardi: Second, the Buddha. We didn’t come here thinking religion would be the topic of this film. But we saw the incredible forgiveness shown consistently throughout the talks. And to observe all subjects offering incense to their ancestors, we thought this looked like something meaningful to them. So it was natural that these images became signs and motifs of our film.

8. Screening.jpg

PART 2 will be released tomorrow —————–

The American War just finished its festival round. The film has been screened in Indonesia, India, New Zealand, the U.S, and Vietnam. The crew is looking to distribute the film via television in Vietnam and internationally. 

Learn more about The American War, crew members, and Order a copy of our film here. Subscribe El Dorado Films Youtube channel here . For more information, please contact: Daniel Bernardi at and 415.741.7892.

New Intern Diana Sánchez Maciel announces “Sea Story”


VDC gladly welcomes our new intern and future filmmaker Diana Sánchez Maciel. Diana is an experimental filmmaker and curator born in Mexico City and raised in San Jose, California. She graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in Cinema. Her personal work stems from the roots of film history. American avant-garde and Third Cinema are her greatest influences. She is excited to start working on pre-production research, shoots and engaging the community with veteran stories through film screenings. Diana is also working on an ambitious project with the San Francisco State University’s film archive.

Along with helping with research, Diana will help VDC launch “Sea Stories”, a mini-series of one-minute social media clips that will feature, expand, and display the dramatic narratives of Veteran war stories. The new series of micro-documentaries will be premiering on Instagram followed by youtube. Sea Stories will be a brand new El Dorado Films experience filled with interesting characters telling their tales of war.



New Valor Series Release: Noble Sissle, Jr.

Noble Sissle Jr. is a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, former production company owner, and a community development expert.  He is the subject of our newest Valor series release – our films that feature Veterans today.

Graduating from College in 1965, Sissle Jr. received his Draft Notice from the Selective Service. “I was able to convince the fine officers to let me return and graduate,” he told us.  He graduated and seven months later found himself at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, for processing in the U.S. Army.  “No MBA for me,” he finished.

After training Sissle was shipped out to Ft. Riley, Kansas to become a member of the re-constituted 9th Infantry Division.  With a degree in Accounting, he was invited to extend his career by an additional year.  He declined, remaining a PFC – “older than most of my sergeants and second lieutenant Platoon Leader,” he noted. Through Basic Training, Advanced Infantry Training and Division maneuvers in some very cold and snowy weather, his unit prepared for a tour in Germany.  That did not happen, however.  As Sissle Jr. explains:  “ They took our reliable M-14 rifles and replaced them with inaccurate M-16s, and sent us to Vietnam.”

After a 28-day voyage from Oakland, CA, he arrived in Vung Tau, Vietnam with 11 months and two days to “find, engage and defeat” the enemy.  His unit was trucked to Bearcat base camp where they set up tents and fortified the perimeter.

Someone noticed Sissle Jr. had a degree and skills to work in the finance company and was transferred from his original unit, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, to Headquarters.  “Although very different from pounding around in rice paddies,” he said, “finance personnel often spent 8-12 days in the field tracking down G.I.s to get pay forms updated and request signatures for financial documents.”

“Stop shooting and sign this quadruplicate form so I can get out of here!  Got any extra ammo?”


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

During his time in the country, Sissle Jr. was able to visit his old pals in Charlie Company of the 4th/39th.  “Everyone was surviving in a “Forest Gump” kind of way,” he reminisced.  “Turns out that actual movie character was in the 4th/47th of the 9th Infantry Division,” he continued. “When I first saw Gump’s army patch, he graciously told the audience,   ‘Hey, Gump’s in the Old Reliables!’”

Sissle Jr. grew to put the war in perspective. “The sad experience I witnessed in the field and base camp was how young and ethnic these young men were.,” he noted. “At the age of 25, I spent more time just listening to soldiers who were just out of high school. Most had been in the service for a year and were hoping to get additional rank while in Vietnam. After leaving, many figured that the third year would produce opportunities worth staying an additional 3-6 years and obtain skills and education as a plan to escape the poverty that prevailed in their hometowns.”

“I never knew if many of their plans were fulfilled.”

Sissle Jr. recalls that drugs and alcohol were pervasive in Vietnam, and reasoned that many of his fellow soldiers returned home with the habits and nightmares of combat dominating their lives. “The 12-15 guys I hung with in Vietnam were either African American or Puerto Rican,” he said.

Sissle returned home in January 1968.  The Tet Offensive took place shortly thereafter.  He was safely home by a week. Yet by June of that year, Dr. King and Robert Kennedy were killed and the full brunt of the Anti-Vietnam War Movement was gearing up. “On occasion, I found myself in California, New York, and Florida in the middle of anti-war protesting.  Sometimes I would wander to the edges of the massive crowds and shout with them, ‘Hell no, we won’t go!’” Then under my breath, I’d say to myself, ‘Again.’ Then drift away.”

Sissle Jr. remained socially aware and engaged throughout his post-service career, raising funds and engaging in development work on behalf of local and state communities.   For more on his years of service in and out of the U.S. Army, please watch our short film premiering this week on the El Dorado Films Youtube Channel:

For More with Noble Sissle Jr. please watch our video profile on him:


A final note.  Sissle Jr. is also the son of Noble Lee Sissle, a famous singer in partnership with Eubie Blake, orchestra leader, unofficial Mayor of Harlem – and Harlem Hell Fighter. Sissle Sr. entered the Army in 1917 and was assigned to the 369th Infantry Regiment Army.  Working alongside Jim Europe, who had been gassed in the trenches of WWI, the 369th band performed through France and neighboring countries, introducing syncopated ragtime to the French people.

El Dorado Films has combined unseen period footage of the Harlem Hell Fighters with an original score of Sissle’s music from that era in the new feature film, “Noble Sissle’s Syncopated Ragtime.”  This film is currently in festivals.  To watch a trailer, click here:

French Air Force Second Lieutenant Tanguy Speaks on VDC Christchurch Art Gallery Premiere

My name is Tanguy and I am a Second Lieutenant in the French Air Force. I have been in the French Air Force since I passed the competitive examination for the French Air Force Academy in 2016. Even though no one is a service member in my family, I have been studying in the military since the end of high school. It was mainly due to my dedication for aeronautics that I approached the military. I am currently working as an intern at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Indeed, carrying out a 5-month internship is mandatory to obtain the French Air Force’s Master Degree in Aeronautics. I chose Christchurch, New Zealand for its diverse community, English-speaking environment and the breath-taking sceneries.

As a serviceman and history-lover, I could not possibly miss the films presented by Daniel L. Bernardi and projected by the Canterbury Film Society in the Christchurch Art Gallery. The work of Daniel Bernardi and his collaborators is really impressive, inspiring and of great importance to me. Daniel gives a second voice for those who dedicated themselves to their duties and what they believed was the right thing to do. Some of them went as far as giving their own life. Instead of letting their history descend into oblivion, Mr. Bernardi and his team have been trying to honour their memory whether they be American or even Vietnamese… Without making anything up concerning the battle scenes, they tried to have people figure out what happened on the battlefield.

The film on Sissle was deeply moving. Indeed, this African-American soldier and Jazz singer fought for the US in France with French battledress. Because of racial tensions in the US, he did not have any US military equipment. This Jazz singer reminds us that these African-American soldiers brought Jazz with them to France and influenced French musical culture. However, even if they fought like any US soldiers against the Germans, they did not receive the recognition they deserved, and this is precisely what this film is trying to repair. But, according to me, the most striking film was the one on Raoul Luftbery. This American Ace Pilot, who is sometimes listed alternately as a French ace or as an American ace, began the war as a mechanic after joining the “Service Aéronautique” which is the antecedent of the French Air Force. Many American soldiers did the same. The “Escadrille Lafayette”, which still exists and is now known as “Escadron de Chasse 2/4 Lafayette”, was created in 1916 and counted in its ranks many volunteers who came from abroad to fight for France. Lufberry, after the death of his close French friend Marc Pourpe, decided to leave the ground to fight in the sky and become an ace for revenge purposes. This story, and more generally speaking the Escradrille Lafayette is a great icon of the Franco-American relationship. To hear in an American film about this very famous escadrille of the French Air Force in New Zealand, was really unexpected and really appreciated.

The idea of avenging the death of a foreign friend and the desire to join the fight alongside another nation without any obligation is, for me, moving and noble. Besides reviving the memory of Lufbery this film sheds light on the Franco-American relationship of that time. It is expected from an American film director to focus on US army veterans, but showing the point of view of the Viet Congs is quite unheard of. In the American War, Daniel Bernardi lets the Viet Cong veterans rekindle their memory of a War in which they were enemies. This open-minded approach is really impressive and well shot. It shows an individual-focused picture of this war which I’ve never seen before.

On the one hand, the approach of remembering those who knew the war as soldiers and the attempt not to forget them is, in my opinion, an amazing work, useful to understand the real cost of war and essential to pay tribute to every service member (veteran or active). On the other hand, describing the war with neither makeup nor the video game graphics can help people figure out what war is like.




This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Madame Mars Completes Successful Festival Run

El Dorado Films seeks movers and shakers of filmmaking that are motivated by a need for social change. Madame Mars: Women and the Quest for Worlds Beyond, a documentary by veteran filmmaker Jan Millsapps, was perfectly aligned with El Dorado Film’s mission, says Daniel Bernardi, Madame Mars executive producer and founder of El Dorado Films.

“The Madame Mars Project and its amazing team have helped greatly with the success of the film. Thank you to all who were involved.”

After high-profile preview screenings in June 2018 at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna, Austria, and last November at the famed Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the “Madame Mars” film was released for film festivals, where it immediately met with success.

The film was awarded first place for Best Professional Documentary in the Oscar-qualifying Raw Science Film Festival in Los Angeles, a Directors Choice Award from the venerable Black Maria Film Festival in New Jersey, and a special mention in the online Global Shorts Film Festival. The film was also shown at the American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs and at the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival; Millsapps attended both events and engaged in Q&A with enthusiastic audiences.

On March 22, 2019, Madame Mars made its broadcast premiere on KQED-TV, where it was featured as part of the PBS station’s “Women History Month” programming, and will be shown again this summer, during KQED’s observance of the 50th anniversary of NASA’s first moon landing.

“Madame Mars” is doing exactly what you want your film to do,” says Millsapps, who produced, directed and wrote the film. “It’s making its way into the world and finding appreciative audiences wherever it is shown.” She thinks the successful film festival run and television broadcast have helped create a fresh and much-needed voice for women in science. “I love the fact that stories of women’s contributions to our study and exploration of Mars are finally being told.”

Millsapps is editing a series of short videos about women in STEM/STEAM disciplines and continues to follow the stories of women and space on Madame Mars social media platforms. Most recently, she shared and commented on news stories about Katie Bouman, the young woman who wrote the algorithm enabling scientists to take the first photograph of a black hole, the outcry over a cancelled spacewalk by two women due to lack of spacesuits on the ISS, and Dr. Susan Ip-Jewell’s (who appears in the Madame Mars film) pioneering analog astronaut expedition to Nepal. Millsapps also writes and publishes a quarterly Madame Mars newsletter with stories about Mars, women, and space, and STEM/STEAM education.

Next up for Madame Mars are scheduled screenings May 4-5 at venues in Mill Valley and San Rafael, as part of DOCLANDS, the California Film Institute’s docs-only festival. Ticket sales are on the DOCLANDS website: Ticket Sales

This slideshow requires JavaScript.




RAW SCIENCE FILM FESTIVAL- First Place Award, Professional Documentary (over 10 minutes) – Oscar-qualifying festival.

BLACK MARIA FILM FESTIVAL- Director’s Choice Award

GLOBAL SHORTS- Special Mention

Other Festivals:



DOCLANDS- (non-competitive, invitational)


Be sure to visit Madame Mars online: