The award-winning documentary film Country School: One Room – One Nation will be showcased at the beautiful Grand Opera House, 135 West 8th Street in Dubuque, Iowa on Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. A Q&A with the Rundles and other film participants will follow the documentary presentation. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased on the day of the show.
The Grand stage, newly renovated.
From immigration issues in early schools to the controversial demise of their widespread use in the 1950s and 1960s, Country School: One Room – One Nation combines visually stunning images of a myriad of restored and decaying buildings—including one designed by Frank Lloyd Wright—with surprising, humorous, and heartwarming stories from former teachers, students and scholars. More than just nostalgia, Country School also delves into the dark side of the one-room school experience and dispels the myths behind the revered institution that helped bind a young nation together.
Shot in all four seasons in Iowa and four other states, the feature-length documentary tells the dramatic true story of the life, death, and rebirth of the one-room school. Several historic sites in Dubuque and Jackson Counties are featured in the film. Among them are Dubuque’s Mathias Ham House one-room school, Spragueville’s North Bend Community Center and Emeline Schoolhouse in Emeline, Iowa.
“The country school was the center of the rural community,” said Jackson County preservationist Caroline Bredekamp. “The restoration work on the North Bend Community Center (formerly Fairfield #2 Schoolhouse in Spragueville) has once again brought the community together.”
“I think we all need a personal hook into the past, and the one-room country school is that kind of a “hook,” said Jackson County historian Donald Wentworth.
Quad City Times film critic Linda Cook gave the film 4-out-of-4 stars and wrote: "Another documentary gem...vivid and fascinating.
Film reviewer Mike Schulz of the River Cities Reader wrote, "Country School emerges as a definitive portrait of education in a one-room environment, a work that's every bit as informative, engaging and impassioned as those telling its tales."
Iowa is ground-zero for one-room schools. Just after 1900, Iowa had nearly 13,000 one-room schools—more than any other state. Iowa still has 3,000 existing buildings and 200 restored schools—more than any other state. Over 50 one-room schools are still in operation in Iowa and three of those are still part of a public K-12 school district.
“One-room schools are a page in American history that is turning, and perhaps in another generation or two, there will be no one left to tell the story,” said writer/historian William Samuelson.
Country School: One Room – One Nation premiered at the State Historical Building in Des Moines in November 2010 and has been screening throughout the U.S. ever since. The documentary has won several film festival and other awards. The DVD will be released nationally in December. Midwestern PBS broadcasts are planned for Country School in 2012.
Country School: One Room – One Nation was funded in part by Humanities Iowa, the Kansas Humanities Council, the Wisconsin Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area.
The Rundles previously produced the award-winning documentaries Lost Nation: The Ioway and Villisca: Living with a Mystery. They are currently in production on the documentaries Movie Star: The Secret Lives of Jean Seberg, River to River: Iowa's Forgotten Highway 6 and the sequel Lost Nation: The Ioway 2 & 3.