This coming Veteran’s Day is a special one for Paul Ingles. Ingles is using the solemn holiday to screen his semi-autobiographical film A Soldier’s Passage: Conversations from the Last Mile of the Long Walk Home as a way to pay tribute to his late father, a World War II veteran. .
For the past 48 years, Ingles has been a radio man. He spent 16 years in commercial radio as a journalist, program director, on-air host and station manager. Ingles moved to public radio in 1994 when KUNM hired him as its program director. There, he became the co-founder and host of the “Peace Talks Radio,” a job he’s proudly held since 2003.
In 2010 Ingles took a film acting class “as the start of a late stage hobby.” Without the patience to do film background work and audition for one-line parts, Ingles decided if he was going to be in a movie, he would have to make one himself. In 2015 he teamed up with local cinematographer Tim Nenninger to self-finance and shoot a short film titled “The Weeds in Our Own Backyards.”
“As I was finishing that film, my father’s health took a downward turn, and I and my two siblings had to help him make all the key decisions that families have to make when an elder approaches the end of life,” recalls Ingles. “As a freelancer, I had a little more flexibility in my schedule than my siblings—both teachers—so I found myself spending a lot of time back with my father at his retirement home in North Carolina. There were hours of conversations with him in that time, both hard ones and sweet ones. I heard stories about his life I’d never heard.”
Ingles, ever the radio journalist, started recording those conversations.
“He was going through a challenging life review, feeling some regrets. We all wanted to provide him the emotional support he needed to move through it more easefully. I was getting help myself from my therapist back in Albuquerque who bolstered my tool kit to help my father more effectively. It all felt deeply profound and as it was playing out, I’d convinced myself that I should make a dramatic film about it,”says Ingles.
Ingles’ father fought when he was 22 with Patton’s Third Army at the Battle of the Bulge and was eventually awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He died July 5, 2016 at the age of 93.
By the start of 2017, Ingles was working with a scriptwriting group here in Albuquerque to turn those recorded conversations with his father into a somewhat fictionalized feature film.
“I finished the script by the end of February. We did a table read that spring. Cast it and shot it two to three days a week in June and July mostly at La Vida Llena retirement community, which gave us great access to several vacant rooms and locations. Usually, the shooting crew consisted of Tim, production assistant/script supervisor Jen McKinley, myself and occasionally a second camera person and/or a sound engineer. We employed 40 local non-SAG actors with key roles and/or speaking parts. Two-thirds of them I knew through my acting classes.”
The end result was a six chapter, 3 1/4 hour miniseries version that premiered at La Vida Llena in June of 2018. Over the next two years, Ingles and Nenninger perfected a 2 hour and 15 minute feature version, which they were able to premiere at Guild Cinema in July 2019. Over the course of the pandemic, Ingles sent the film to a string of film festivals, eventually picking up 19 “official selections” or “best of” awards around the country.
Coming into the fifth anniversary of finishing the first draft of the film, Ingles decided to release a special “black and white” cut of the film. This new version will screen Nov. 11 at 12:30pm at Guild Cinema (3405 Central NE). Admission is free. Ingles believes this will be the last big screen showing of the film and is happy it coincides with both Veteran’s Day (a holiday “which people often don’t know how to celebrate or honor”) and what would have been his father’s 100th birthday. In addition to that, it’s also the 20th anniversary of “Peace Talks Radio,” now heard on over 70 stations in 25 states.
“We’re going to pass around the hat for donations at the screening,” says Ingles, “hoping we can raise a little money to keep promoting a culture of peace through our radio efforts and take small steps toward a day when the sacrifice of our veterans might someday be obsolete.”