The Real Bold Badmen will be screening at this year’s 35th Cleveland International Film Festival. Words provide no justice to the journey that Joe Siebert, Derek Urey and I have been on since it’s inception back in the summer of 2009. In fact, we were recently talking about all the events that occurred in such a small window of time. October 2009…Cowboy Len…feisty and giving his own direction to the director Joe Siebert, sat next to an 8mm film projector with Bold Badmen playing behind him and shared his story about he and his brothers making amateur western films back in the 1940’s in Canton, Ohio. We were encouraged to see a 78 year old man sit there and speak of his films as though they were dreams that persevered through all these years . He even showed us lasso tricks and did some gun slinging with his older brother Ky in an alley behind the house!
During the filming, Len was in remission from his battle with cancer. Tragically, it returned shortly after principal photography. After assembling a five minute micro documentary for the Reelate film festival, Joe wanted to dive much deeper into the story which required going back to get testimonials from Len’s children and good friend, “Deuce”. Even with Len’s health compromised, he still made an appreciated effort to pull it together for another shoot day.
I watched this man’s mind and body crumble before my very eyes…but it was evident that nothing could crush his spirit. The little I knew of his life, I was sure that Len was a dreamer until the day he passed. I’ll never forget seeing him up on stage at the 2010 Akron Film Festival in his wheelchair…speaking about his journey in film making. The Zaleski family firmly believed he was hanging on for this moment. Bold Badmen had finally reached an audience that would appreciate it in all its glory and in tandem, a documentary that revealed the true heart behind the men who created it. It was an honor to share the stage with such an inspiring man who clearly left a living legacy.
After the screening, Joe, Derek, our friend Beau and myself all stood in the lobby and spent some time with Len and the Zaleski family. Deep down, I knew that we were saying our final good-bye’s to a husband, father and dreamer that graciously opened his world up to us over the past year.
Roughly a week later…I stood in a long line for Len’s calling hours. It wasn’t a surprise to see all the pictures and video of Len, his family and his life. It made me think about my life and what kind of legacy that I might leave behind someday. Obviously, Len was a loved man and will be remembered that way.
His undying spirit is inspiring to this very moment and will be something that I carry with me for the rest of my life. I am fortunate to be a part of something so special…and I believe that God designed this opportunity just for us.
Until we meet again…happy trails Cowboy Len.