Moline-based Fourth Wall Films is wrapping its 10th year in the Quad-Cities by embarking on two new film projects and planning the 2018 release of its first docudrama.
Fourth Wall has received three grants for two new short documentaries -- "Riding the Rails to Hero Street" and "The Amish Incident: Rural Conflict & Compromise."
HERO STREET FILM
The first will benefit from a $9,000 grant from Humanities Iowa and $3,500 grant from The Moline Foundation.
"Riding the Rails" will be part of a planned series of eight short films telling the story of the Hero Street Eight, a group of men who all lived on the same short street in Silvis and gave their lives in World War II and the Korean War. "Riding the Rails" will focus on how families of the Hero Street heroes came to Silvis, Davenport's Cook's Point, and Bettendorf's Holy City, where many worked in Quad-Cities rail yards.
Fourth Wall's Emmy-nominated "Letters Home to Hero Street" (2015), a co-production with WQPT, the local PBS station, is also part of the series. Producer/director Kelly Rundle said this week that while he originally envisioned making a feature-length documentary about the history of the Hero Street community, obstacles to funding got in the way.
"It was just too big of a struggle to fundraise the entire project," he said. "Based on the success of the short film, it's just the idea we can make progress on this now. People see these stories; they get out into the world; and we see more interest in it as we move toward completing the series."
The 25-minute "Riding the Rails" will cover the period roughly from 1917 to 1930, and the series should follow chronologically, Mr. Rundle said. He hopes that the first short film will premiere around Veterans Day 2018.
"Letters Home" -- a 25-minute documentary -- tells Frank Sandoval's World War II story through letters he sent home to his family in Silvis between 1942 and 1944. He entered the U.S. Army in 1942, and served in North Burma. He was listed as "killed in action" near the Irrawaddy River on June 26, 1944, at age 23. His older brother Joe was killed in Germany on April 14, 1945.
The Sandovals are two among eight Mexican-American soldiers from what was then known as 2nd Street in Silvis who died in battle. In 1969, the street was renamed Hero Street to honor the eight.
Like "Letters Home," the success of "Riding the Rails" will not rely on whether or not other films in the series are produced, Mr. Rundle said.
The audience for the documentary will be reminded of the contemporary immigration debate, and it will provide a historical context for better understanding current immigration issues, he said.
A $7,819 grant from Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area will fund a portion of Fourth Wall's short film "The Amish Incident," about a 1965 attempt to bus Amish students to schools in Buchanan County, Iowa.
A Des Moines Register photographer captured a photo of Amish children fleeing local authorities by running into a cornfield, and the dramatic picture was reprinted in papers throughout the nation and world, Mr. Rundle said.
"When shooting footage for 'Country School' (another film Fourth Wall did in 2012), we did several interviews connected to that story, but we decided not to include that in 'Country School,' " he said.
The children were fleeing school and law-enforcement officers who were trying to enforce public education laws. The Register photo was picked up by Life magazine and other publications, and historians credit it with rallying a national public outcry that resulted in a religious-liberty movement that shifted Iowa's public education requirements, granting wide exemptions, the Register said.
"It was a tug of war between Amish, who steadfastly opposed being integrated into public education, and school officials trying to enforce Iowa law," Mr. Rundle said. "The resolution of the conflict is key to why the Amish have remained and thrived in Iowa."
The Nov. 20, 1965, photo produced "bad optics" for the state, as the "Amish were looked at as peaceful, productive people," the director said. "It's a fascinating little story I think a lot of people don't know about."
Fourth Wall, which launched in Los Angeles before Mr. Rundle and his wife, Tammy, moved to Moline, premiered two films during the company's 10th year in the Quad-Cities: "The Barn Raisers" and "Good Earth: Awakening the Silent City." The Rundles plan to premiere their first docudrama, "Sons & Daughters of Thunder," by the end of 2018.
"Thunder" tells the story of Harriet Beecher's awakening to the horrors of slavery during the first public debates on abolition in Cincinnati, Ohio. The film features a large cast of actors from the Quad-Cities, Chicago and Los Angeles, and was shot at historic sites in the Illinois Quad-Cities area and in the Harriet Beecher House in Cincinnati, where much of the actual story took place in 1834. The film is based on the play written by former Iowan Earlene Hawley.
A DVD release of Fourth Wall's "Movie Star: The Secret Lives of Jean Seberg" is also scheduled for 2018.
For more information, visit fourthwallfilms.com.