review of Forgotten Journey
celebrates historic achievement
JOURNEY is a spectacular new documentary currently
being aired on PBS stations nationwide. Produced by
John Krizek, OCTA's Public Relations chair, the film
tells the wonderful, uplifting story of the nearly,
and unfortunately, forgotten Stephens-Townsend-Murphy
party. The documentary is not only filmed beautifully,
it has been meticulously researched. And it draws powerful
and convincing conclusions about how this party of 50
emigrants faced and triumphed over the same forces that
totally defeated the Donner Party 2 years later.
Stephens-Townsend-Murphy party pioneered the Donner
route to California. And they, too, got trapped in the
snows. They had to leave behind one of their members,
a young teenaged boy named Moses Shallenberger, who
survived months of lonely isolation at Donner Lake.
Some of you may have read his reminiscence. (I'm sure
it's available thru the OCTA bookstore.) Yet the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy
party not only got all their members to California alive,
they actually arrived with two more than they began
with!! I wonder how many emigrant parties could come
close to that success record.
film is shot in that familiar documentary style of beautiful
modern-day dreamy, sensual scenes but they linger a
little longer on those pretty ice-tipped tree limbs
and you begin to feel cold even on a hot August night.
The wind-blown snow drifts are filmed a little more
tightly helping you feel the power of the wind. My favorite
was the fire in the snow (how DO you do that??) and
you watched it, felt its isolation. OK, end that shot.
But, no, they stayed there & the fire started to
falter & I felt the panic of trying to keep that
historians used are excellent and include one of my
personal favorites, JoAnn Levy. Any documentary that
gives me JoAnn's wonderful deep laugh gets 10 extra
points from the beginning. But I also liked the willingness
of these historians to go beyond the base facts and
speculate about what people were thinking when they
made the decisions they did. Obviously we can never
know for sure what others were thinking but my opinion
is that, of late, we've been a little too hesitant to
speculate about those things.
been hearing about the progress of this film for three
or four years from John Krizek and, of course, must
admit that I was predisposed to love it. But I thought
I knew this story. I didn't. The broad outlines, yes.
But not the heart and soul of what makes it a truly
unique tale. The fact that it happened so early in the
emigration, in 1844, two years before the Donners, should
have been enough to make this story more lasting. But
I found myself thinking that this would be a truly classic
story, even if it had happened late in the emigration.
should call your PBS outlet for the PBS showings currently
on tap. Just heard from John that it is being downloaded
for broadcast pretty widely but you should call your
local PBS outlet and ask them when they plan to show
it. And, if they don't have plans, beg them to make
some. I know that you will also adore it.
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