You never know where a story is going to take you. We started developing a documentary on Hero Street in 2012 after reading Marc Wilson's book Hero Street, USA: The Story of Little Mexico's Fallen Soldiers and meeting with the award-winning author. Wilson introduced us to several of the Hero Street eight's family members. It was then we realized the importance of preserving the story and making more people aware of its significance.
The most challenging part of any film project is raising the funding. Several people and organizations pledged immediate support for our Fourth Wall Films documentary project, including MAVA-Chapter VI and an anonymous donor from central Iowa. These initial donations made it possible for us to begin filming interviews.
Then in August 2014 a call came in from Lora Adams at WQPT-PBS looking for a short documentary project (under 30 minutes long) that would be funded by an Illinois Arts Council grant. The grant amount was not large enough to cover the cost of finishing our feature-length Hero Street documentary about all eight of the heroes. So the idea was set in motion to tell the story of one of the heroes, Frank Sandoval. The Sandoval family had a large collection of Frank's letters which made it possible to produce a short documentary with the grant award.
While Fourth Wall Films' and WQPT's collaborative short documentary Letters Home to Hero Street focused on Frank's story, the film ultimately drew attention to all eight of the heroes from Silvis, Illinois.
Letters Home to Hero Street went on to win film festivals, a regional Emmy nomination and generate a PBS Learning Media resource for use by educators all over the country. It also breathed new life into the original long-form documentary project, Hero Street--which will be over 90-minutes long.
Actress Maya Chavez, great great niece of hero Claro Solis/Soliz, stars in "Letters Home to Hero Street".
"Because of Letters Home to Hero Street, people have a better idea of what we can do with the Hero Street documentary feature film," said director Kelly Rundle. "We are grateful for the recent funding that has come in to get production rolling again on the project."
Maria Solis, niece of hero Claro Solis/Soliz sits for an on-camera interview for "Hero Street".
We recently completed an interview for the Hero Street documentary with Maria Solis, who is the niece of hero Claro Solis/Soliz. She is also the proud grandmother of actress Maya Chavez who starred in Letters Home to Hero Street.
The on-camera interview was conducted in the former home of Claro's brother on 2nd Street (now called Hero Street). The family's box car can still be seen within the framework of the home built around it.
Hero Claro Solis/Soliz, one of the Hero Street eight.
Reflecting on her fondest memories of Claro and Hero Street was not always an easy thing to do--memories of joy, warmth and love connected to Claro, the family and the block-and-a-half street in Silvis often mixed with painful and heartbreaking memories of loss. But this story needs to be told, she felt. All of these boys' stories need to be told and remembered.
We could not agree more, Maria.
For more information about supporting the documentary project Hero Street, click HERE.