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The Wake Up Call

Streaming coming soon!

Dave Evans was a renowned prosthetist, humanitarian and peace activist. A double amputee himself, he dedicated his post-military career to transforming lives shattered by these seemingly never-ending, interchangeable wars. From Syrian refugees in a prosthetics clinic in Amman, Jordan, to the fallout of war in places like Iraq, Dave chose a life of service to others. 

We believe the film will generate an important discussion about patriotism, war and redemption, especially in light of recent on-going world events. Our characters have an irrefutable standing, and their experiences and hard earned wisdom make for compelling viewing. If war is a choice, “The Wake Up Call” gives expert counsel about the decision to get involved. 


“From my perspective.... THE WAKE UP CALL is devastating, inspiring, beautiful, tragic. It brings a painful reality into our consciousness, and teaches an impactful lesson. To me, one of the most important aspects of the film is this: in just 1 hour and 10 minutes, I evolved from shying away, being fearful of the images of amputees - to normalizing those images, de-traumatizing to the extent that I’m able to see beyond the tragedy to seeing the PERSON. And finding deep compassion and respect for all who have suffered, mentally and physically, through the surgeries and the painful prosthetic process - to recreating their life, valuing their life, finding meaning in their life....and even finding joy. That's what Dave Evans brought to countless people around the globe. Teaching by example.


I do feel this movie has more than one theme or lesson to impart…. disabilities/abilities is obviously the strongest throughline. But also, especially through Bobby - a clear, first hand view of our country's deception to its soldiers and to the American public, the pointlessness and cruelty of war, and the devastating wake up call - realizing all this pain and suffering is/was for nothing. To me, it is also an impactful anti-war film. 


I have to ask you about this - I was so horrified to learn that Dave Evans passed on during the making of the movie. How in the world did you deal with that? As well as all the men in the movie who knew him and loved him so deeply. And yet, at the same time, what a powerful and honest tribute to this remarkable man.  Yet another important lesson, that good can come from tragedy and loss. I don't know if my comments are helpful in the slightest way. But I commend you both for the enormous work, heart and soul, that you put into creating this film. You should be very, very proud.”


— Lisa Strout, Commissioner, Massachusetts Film Office


“The Wake Up Call.” Storyline Motion Pictures, produced by Alison Gilkey and Eric Neudel, 2021, running time one hour and ten minutes. 


Alison Gilkey and Eric Neudel captured the essence of the brilliant, driven Dave Evans in their documentary, “The Wake Up Call.” Their writing, storytelling, images and narratives chronicle Evans’ remarkable story from a fresh-faced Marine to an international humanitarian and crusader for justice. Evans was known globally for his work as a master prosthetics specialist, helping non-combat victims of war regain some of what had been torn away from them. 


Evans, a native of Cabin Creek, West Virginia, a coal community in the Kanawha River Valley, enlisted in the Marines at the age of 17, and on December 3, 1970, lost both legs below the knees in Vietnam. Only he and his platoon’s radioman survived the ambush. Those circumstances shaped a path to Evans’ life’s calling. On that day, he began his fifty-year journey to fight the madness and injustice of war and to provide some hope and healing to its innocent victims. He resolved to try to repair some of the damage done by his country’s reckless abuses of power.


After a long recovery regimen at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, Evans, while adjusting to his own prosthetic legs, developed an interest in the fabrication, fitting, and adjustments of artificial limbs. For the rest of his life, he worked through the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation with a network of mostly non-governmental agencies to provide prosthetic limbs, and, consequently, healing for victims of war throughout the world, often in the midst of rural or urban firefights. He worked in such far flung places as Angola, Cuba, Cambodia, Syria, Ethiopia, Iraq, the Congo, Sierra Leone (to name but a few) - “not the places you sign up for with your travel agent,” as he put it. 


The things those who knew him loved - his no-bullshit style, his humor, his brilliance, his contempt for those who deserve contempt, his dancing, his energy and dedication, his significance - it’s all here. He was radicalized by Vietnam, and it's clear he turned his radicalism into priceless humanitarianism without losing the fire and anger. The film shows that unobtrusively, by letting viewers see and listen to Evans and his friends without some omniscient voiceover narration. 


The narrators are prescient, insightful, eloquent and moving, especially Evan’s brothers. Two of Evans’ brothers, Rick and Dennis, speak in the measured, matter-of-fact cadence typical of rural West Virginians, unlike Evans himself, who spoke almost frenetically, as if running out of time. The brothers display a deep respect and love for their radical sibling. The producers stay silent, allowing their skillful editing to speak for them. The editing is outstanding. Eliminating clips must have been agonizing, but the film has been woven together brilliantly.


Scenes with Evans’ students and patients are among the most powerful footage. The film shows Evans treating the torn and shattered bodies of amputees as young as six years old, employing his uncanny ability to connect across cultural barriers. He teaches medical staff in the engineering and fitting of prosthetic devices which could restore a semblance of normality to their patients’ lives. Evans said, “I wish everyone could see me work, and then think a little bit.” Thanks to “The Wake Up Call,” we have that chance. 


Evans was equal parts wicked humor, compassion, cutting sarcasm, and empathy. He was committed to peace and justice, but he was no pacifist. He was motivated by rage against the architects of “the interchangeable wars” who have betrayed his country’s avowed principles. 


He was also recognized for his fierce commitment to veterans’ rights, and for his militant critique of American politics and militarism. To Evans, and to the narrators featured here, the trauma of Vietnam was their wake-up call to educate Americans about the injustices and incalculable costs of that and subsequent military adventures. “The Wake Up Call” will help guarantee that Dave’s legacy of dedication to a peaceful world continues.  


— John Hennen

John Hennen is emeritus professor of history at Morehead State University. He is a critically acclaimed author and scholar of Appalachian history. 

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