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‘Small Town Soldiers’ premieres in Watford City this weekend

Posted 6/24/09 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

During World War II, millions of young Americans from rural areas were swept away from their small farms and towns to participate in a world-changing event that had a lasting affect on their lives.
The war affected communities and families worldwide and everyone knew someone who was away fighting for our country. As the years passed the stories of World War II began to fade away and today there are few people who have heard the stories of local soldiers. But thanks to former Watford City resident Cody Shimek, the stories of nine World War II soldiers from McKenzie County will be heard for years to come in a new documentary film, ‘Small Town Soldiers.’
The one-hour film, produced by Shimek will premiere at 4 p.m. Friday, June 26 and Saturday, June 27 at the Watford City High School Media Center. Both screenings are free and open to the public.
“I’m a military history buff, and I’ve always been fascinated by these seemingly regular, gray-haired guys who survived the most harrowing chapter of the 20th century,” says Shimek. “Growing up, I spent a lot of time watching World War II documentaries with my dad and I dedicated this one to him.”
In 2003, Shimek a freelance cameraman, thought a documentary on local soldiers would be a fun and rather easy side project to his business.
“I did the first interview in 2003 kind of on a whim,” says Shimek. “I interviewed a few people then, and in 2007 I interviewed the last three and put everything on a shelf thinking I would find someone to edit the footage.”
After realizing he wasn’t going to find someone to edit his footage, Shimek decided it was time to finish his movie. So after purchasing editing equipment and teaching himself how to edit he started in on the long process of putting all the pieces together.
“It took over a year to do the editing,” comments Shimek. “It was a long but fun process. It was like writing a love letter to my home town.”
The documentary follows nine veterans from McKenzie County as they each tell their own story from growing up during the Depression to their feelings on Pearl Harbor.
“The unique thing about this documentary is that there is no narration, everything is told by the veterans themselves,” adds Shimek. “Some of the veterans talk about parts of the war that are familiar to most people and others mention things that few people have ever heard of.”
The former soldiers describe their lives before the war, their reaction to combat ranging from Guadalcanal to the European air war and what it was like coming home – in most cases forever changed by the war.
The documentary contains real footage from World War II, scenic footage of McKenzie County, still photos and newspaper archives plus interviews from Christian Stenberg, Bill Faulkner, John Winden, Joel Grotte, Thomas Kellogg, John Pojorlie, Barny Bertinuson, Jack Bazer and Jim Taylor.
“It may be difficult for some family members to watch the film, because four of the veterans that I interviewed have passed away,” says Shimek. “I just hope I did a good job of making a fitting tribute to them.”
Shimek’s documentary will premiere in Watford City, but he hopes it will go even farther.
“I’m talking with PBS right now,” states Shimek. “Nothing has been confirmed yet, but they are very interested in airing the film.”
Shimek is a 1991 graduate of Watford City High School and a 1995 graduate of the University of North Dakota. He now lives in Minneapolis, Minn. where he is the owner and director of photography for Media Men Inc., a television film crew company with clients such as ESPN, MTV and ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show.’ For more information, visit www.mediamen.tv or check out his film debut Friday and Saturday at 4 p.m.