New documentary highlights West Virginian dedicated to helping fellow amputees

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two documentary filmmakers will take part in a screening Thursday of their film on a West Virginian who spent 50 years making and fitting artificial limbs.

A screening of “The Wake Up Call” will take place Thursday at the state Culture Center in Charleston. A reception will begin at 6 p.m. with the film starting at 7 p.m. Filmmakers Alison Gilkey and Eric Neudel will participate in a discussion about “The Wake Up Call” after the screening.

Gilkey and Neudel explained on Wednesday’s “MetroNews Talkline” that the film stems from another project.

“The initial story that Eric and I were wanting to work on came out of a State Department trip we took to Laos in southeast Asia. It was during the research phase before our trip that we discovered that Laos is the most bombed country in the world, thanks to the American warplanes during the Vietnam War,” Gilkey said.

“We knew that we wanted to cover an aspect of war, so we started brainstorming who do we know, who can we contact that can carry a story about war, and it turns out Eric had met Dave Evans many, many years before we started working together.”

Evans enlisted in the military service when he was 17 years old. He lost both of his legs in combat and spent the remainder of his life making artificial limbs for other people. He died when he was 67 years old.

“Extraordinary is not enough,” Neudel said about Evans. “He was unique.”

Gilkey and Neudel convinced Evans to participate in a film regarding his work.

“One of the most attractive parts of him was how he was torn apart by his life experiences,” Neudel explained.

“He saw, I think, after he got back home that what had happened in Vietnam had changed him forever. He understood a basic theme that’s in our film, and that’s about how once you go to war, you’re never the same.”

Gilkey said Evans also saw himself in other amputees.

“I think that was very humbling for Dave and it was lifesaving for Dave to be able to help other people who had been physically damaged by war,” she said. “It was a very gratifying thing for Dave. He was very humble about it.”

The event is part of Charleston’s FestivALL, an annual series of events recognizing the arts.

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