FSU and Tallahassee rolled out the red carpet for “Above the Best.” From left: Paul Cohen, director of FSU’s College of Motion Picture Arts Torchlight Cinematheque; David Salzberg, co-director of the film; and Billy Francis, director of the FSU Student Veterans Center. (FSU Photography Services)
Florida State University students, Tallahassee community members and veterans kicked off Veterans Day weekend by recognizing the nation’s military and veterans with a screening of the documentary-narrative feature film “Above the Best,” Thursday, Nov. 7, at CMX Cinemas Fallschase.
The event, presented by the College of Motion Picture Arts Torchlight Cinematheque in association with the FSU Veterans Alliance, marked the ninth year FSU has screened a veteran-themed film in honor of Veterans Day.
“This is the ninth year that we’ve been able to present a motion picture devoted to understanding and promoting better communication with our returning veterans,” said Paul Cohen, director of FSU’s College of Motion Picture Arts Torchlight Cinematheque.
The annual event’s mission is to raise awareness of student-veterans’ issues and bridge the gap between veterans and the community. It was the first time the event was held off campus, and the community responded with a full house.
“I want to thank this community and Florida State University for the steps they’ve taken to weave the individual threads that are our veterans back into the fabric of our society,” said Billy Francis, director of the FSU Student Veterans Center. “That’s what this is about because, together, we’re a strong cloth. By ourselves, we’re not as strong.”
“Above the Best” is based on the best-selling book “South of Heaven” and tells the story of Apache pilot Dan Flores and his year of deployment to the most dangerous valley in Afghanistan.
“I hope the film reminds all of us that we’re Americans,” said David Salzberg, the film’s co-director. “We’re one, we’re unified. It’s about service and selfless acts.”
Before the screening, Salzberg accepted the “FSU Student Veteran Torchlight Cinematheque Award for Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking.” It was the fourth time Salzberg and co-director Christian Tureaud have received the award. The pair also were honored for “The Hornet’s Nest” (2015), “Citizen Solider” (2016) and “Apache Warrior” (2017).
“We were only going to do one of these films, ‘The Hornet’s Nest,’” Salzberg said. “But because the films are about service and selfless acts of courage and real valor, we are continuing to make them until they tell us we can’t make them anymore or until everybody comes home.”
The directors, who have developed a relationship with Florida State over the years, recognized the university in the film’s credits.
“FSU is the best of the best,” Salzberg said.
Flores, the main subject of the film, and his fellow veterans Kirsti Hickey and Terry Best joined Salzberg and Cohen for the post-screening question-and-answer session.
Before the film, an FSU Joint ROTC Color Guard presented the colors, and Billy Dean, country music star and Quincy native, sang the National Anthem.