Posted 7/01/09 (Wed)
By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
If the turnout and feedback from the Watford City movie premiere of ‘Small Town Soldiers’ directed by Cody Shimek, is any indication of the movie’s overall success, then Shimek should be in the running for Director of the Year.
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 one-hour film premiered on Friday, June 26 and Saturday, June 27 at the Watford City High School Media Center. The house was full for Friday’s showing and on Saturday, the Media Center was so packed that Shimek had to add an additional showing of the movie.
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, Barney Bertinuson, Jack Bazer and Jim Taylor.
“This was a great movie. I’m glad I could be a part of it and real glad that I was able to be here today to see it,” said Jim Taylor, a World War II veteran. “It gives you a good run on history and you get to see some actual stuff that you wouldn’t have seen unless you were crazy enough to be there.”
The movie begins with familiar scenes of McKenzie County, but it doesn’t take long to realize that you’re watching real heroes telling a story from long ago in a time and place where they would have given almost anything to be back home in McKenzie County.
For some in attendance the film was more than a documentary about local heroes, it was a film about their loved ones and a life they once lived.
Ann Johnsrud was moved to tears by the movie as her father, Bill Faulkner, who passed away two years ago, told his story of World War II.
“I had seen the whole interview before, but to see it combined with the footage of the war and the photographs was very moving,” says Johnsrud. “I was moved to tears and could not even speak. What they went through for all our sakes was just an unbelievable feat. It really makes you realize what the cost was for the freedom we all enjoy, and take for granted, today. These men truly were the Greatest Generation.”
From those who had family members in the war to those who took part in the war themselves, the room was silent as stories were told, some for the first time ever.
“We knew all of those guys so well,” says Ann Fisketjon of Watford City. “It made you feel like you were there. What a great job Cody did on this film. It was very professional and wonderful.”
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.
“This was a real good film,” stated Fabian Zimmerman, a Taylor N.D. Navy Veteran. “It brought back a lot of memories, not all of them good ones. It was so real, it just about made me cry. A lot of people did cry.”
After his first interviews in 2003, it took Shimek six years to complete the movie, but it seems the movie was well worth his time.
“My Dad was so proud of the interview he did with Cody, he gave all of us a copy,” added Johnsrud. “And Cody, what an amazing young man, to take such an interest in this and to document it for generations to come. He did a phenomenal job and I and my family are indebted to him forever. My Dad would be very proud of Cody and this wonderful movie!”
Shimek is currently in negotiation with PBS, although they have nothing confirmed, He says that Prairie Broadcast Systems (PBS) is very interested in airing the movie.
Copies of the movie can be purchased for $15 at the Long X Visitor Center in Watford City or by contacting Shimek at www.mediamentv.com