by Anna L. Arnett
Last week I rode up to Utah, with my son Mark and his wife Camille, to attend much of the LDS Film Festival in Orem. We went on Wednesday, even though Mark's documentary, "Baby Boomerang" was not playing before Saturday noon. The film festival was exciting, and exhilerating for me, at least. Mark didn't fare as well. Oh, he had some exciting moments, but he felt pretty sick most of the time. He had bronchitis and the change in altitude from the Phoenix valley to Utah valley left him quite breathless. At least that's how a doctor diagnosed it Thursday evening. About noon that day he had started caughing during one film showing, got up to exit the theater, and blacked out before he reached the door. He found himself on the floor with a raw carpet burn on his forehead and on his nose. Somebody helped him up and out to a comfy sofa in the lounge. He felt, and looked, better after resting, and we made it through the day.
My job during the festival, was to hand out flyers and try to convince people to watch our documentary. My pitch usually went something like this:
"Will you be able to attend on Saturday at noon?"
If they said yes I'd continue with, "Then you must see this documentary." I'd flip the flyer over and point to pictures, saying, "This is me, and this is my husband, and this is our youngest son." Then flipping to the front side, "and this is my husband's ID picture when he was captured by the Germans and taken to a POW camp. He doesn't look very happy, does he?"
From there on, it depended on what response I got. A few brushed me off, merely taking a flyer, but most lingered to talk a little. Everybody seemed very friendly. When it finally showed, we had one of the largest attendance. I was surprised at how few watched some of the films, but a hundred or so people look like only a handful in a theater that seats 750.
I didn't get to see all the films--two were showing at the same time, and we weren't always there. All fils chosen were charming, but there were two or three that I keep thinking about. One was "Father in Israel" which was a slice of life showing the problems of a new bishop.
Another had the intriguing title of "Mafia to Mormon." This really happened. Mario actually went from a life of theft to becoming a temple ordinance worker. He really didn't expect to get out alive from the Mafia organization in Detroit, but he did. And he thanks Governor George Romney who refused a cool million dollars, and the wonderful members whose lives and meetings were watched by Mafia members. Oh, it was very interesting. Stephanie Adair, my granddaughter with whom we stayed in Highland, had a copy of his book, which I read. (Romney wasn't mentioned in the book, just the film.)
A third film I especially liked was a documentary on prisoners of war in Japan. Very different from Charles' experience, which had a happy ending. This documentary seemed to focus on how these soldiers in the Philippines were abandoned by their government, abused by the Japanese, and not only not given official recognization for all they went through, but were even denied the power to seek reparations from the Japanese corporations who used them as 'slave' labor, fourteen hours a day, underfed, mistreated, and never reimbursed. It is sad. But as far as that goes, the 492nd bomb group that Charles flew with were never officially recognized, either. Nor were lots of others who suffered greatly. Men who just kept plugging along, doing their duty the best way they could, under whatever circumstances befell them, and remaining loyal. That's what makes a hero, touted or unsung.
I'd watched "Baby Boomerang" maybe half a dozen times, but watching it again in the theater, and trying to see it through the eyes of the audience, I wept through the last half of it. Then I had to get up on stage with Mark and Camille for question and answer time. Camille had the mike first, spoke a bit and handed it to me. I still couldn't talk, and passed it directly to Mark, whose throat was still sore, but he fielded all the questions. They were directed to him, anyway. I did get my voice again, but don't really remember what I said.
In the foyer several told me how glad they were I talked them into coming to the showing. That felt good.
Mark is hoping to find a sponsor to produce and distribute CD's. Right now he says this is the last film he'll ever make. I won't hold him to that.
Oh, and Mark had his tickets to join my three oldest children in Germany, but the doctor strongly advised against it. This Tuesday, along with a dozen more children of POW's, Marolyn, Wayne and Kathleen are walking the walk Charles and several thousand other Air Force officers walked in 1945, from ten o'clock the night of January 27 until the morning of January 29. The distance is some 55 miles. The POW's walked in deep snow and wind during the coldest winter on record. There is little snow there now. Back then they walked continually for a night, a day, and another night with only occasional five-minute rests. This group will sleep in hotels, take three days, and have a bus tagging along behind to pick up any stragglers. I think a part of me is right there with them. And I wonder if Charles, Ernie and Lucien (pilot, navigator and co-pilot, all now deceased) might also be aware, if not beside them.
Again, these men did what they had to do, and did it as well as they could. Therefore, they're heroes.
(Now to get at my four-hundred plus emails and the week or two of blogs to read and comment on.)
Thanks for listening.