A Filmmaker’s Blind Ambition

David Block has a hurt locker crammed with memories that he wants to share for Memorial Day.

With low funds but high-octane energy, he has been pushing and promoting "Abandoned Heroes," his daring documentary of veterans facing more difficult wars at home than they did on battlefields, as disrespect and misunderstandings sometimes sear hearts harder than shrapnel.

To that end, Block must have felt like an abandoned hero himself; it took a decade of drive and energy-draining persistence to raise funds and raise hell to get his work on board and on screen.

But give-'em-hell David wouldn't have it any other way. After all, blind ambition is nothing new for the 47-year-old Ardmore resident redolent of ardor.

Legally blind, the filmmaker doesn't suffer from a blocked vision; he knows what he wants and sees his way through to accomplishing it. Such nerve — and unnerving chutzpah — has served him well, as the Bard College graduate — and long ago Jewish Exponent intern — already succeeded with a previous docu, "Brian's Run."

Block's run for the gold continues, but this one is the one that may make him a hero to other indie filmmakers: "Abandoned Heroes" has found a home and attention at festivals nationwide, including the best docu award from the 2009 Independents Film Festival.

Block recently returned from showing the film in Hawaii at the Pacific Rim Conference for People With Disabilities and wears his lei of late-bloomer with pride. To that end, he will be showing his docu Memorial Day weekend and the days leading up to it at the Main Line YMCA in Ardmore, followed by a June date with the New Hope Film Festival.

New hope? Renewed hope?

"I hate to fail on a project," says the blunt, brusque filmmaker who has braved rejection and rejected it often enough to warrant a war chest filled with evidence of accomplishments, including his credits as a journalist.

Indeed, "Abandoned Heroes" was born out of an abandoned project, a docu "which was to focus on how Israelis who become disabled in combat used physical activity to adjust."

An adjustment in focus had to be made: The group that had signed off for the project eventually signed out, he says.

Block faces such challenges with a smile … not. He even frowns on that very notion.

"I am not a very happy person," he says with a grimace. "At seders, I insisted on reading the part of the Wicked Son.

"I haven't had a great life."

Ralph Edwards would have cried himself to sleep. "Some people used to think and treat me like I was mentally retarded; part of that is my blindness, and I have no social skills. But I am a very smart guy."

And while the snubs and insults smart in a way most fully visioned people may not understand, put Block behind a camera and life suddenly becomes picture-perfect.

Block-buster? "People like the film; I feel better about myself. Here it is, what I created; and I want some recognition."

It has come in screen-fuls. But the pocketful of miracles he counts on doesn't necessarily count big-time at the bank.

"I get by with a little help from my friends," he chuckles.

Many have befriended him and his ambitions, including Julian Krinsky, camp mogul and mensch who founded the Time to Share Foundation, and who, says Block, agreed "to be the fiscal sponsor of this documentary."

Others worked their magic as well, working on the film — Marian Leahy as a research assistant, Frank Minutillo as a co-producer– with assists from the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the Tuttleman Family Foundation and philanthropist Dan Gordon.

It comes as no surprise that Block, who says that he's currently working "on a book of short stories about blind athletes," has tried his hand at what may be one of the most arduous fetes, even for someone who likes hitting the ground running.

Says the long-distance filmmaker: "I've run marathons."


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