2012 marks a significant anniversary in Southwest Iowa--a tragic anniversary. It is the centennial anniversary of Iowa's worst mass murder, and historic sites, museums and public television stations are making sure the story is remembered and never forgotten.
As part of that effort, Sons & Daughters of Thunder producers Kelly and Tammy Rundle's award-winning documentary Villisca: Living with a Mystery will be broadcast on IPTV-PBS and WQPT-PBS during the month of June to commemorate the altering event in Iowa history (check your local listings).
In addition to PBS showings, the Montgomery County History Center in Red Oak, Iowa will feature the film on Sunday, June 10th, 2012 (the 100th-anniversary date) at 2:00 p.m. Organized by History Center Director David McFarland and co-sponsored by the Villisca Historical Society, the commemorative event will include a Q&A following the documentary with the filmmakers and Dr. Edgar Epperly, the foremost historical authority on the still-unsolved crime.
Sometime during the night of Monday, June 10, 1912, a person or persons unknown entered a modest house in Villisca, Iowa and bludgeoned to death Josiah B. Moore, his wife Sara, and their children Herman, Katherine, Boyd, and Paul and overnight guests Lena and Ina Stillinger. The crime, known thereafter as the “Villisca axe murders”, is the most notorious mystery in Iowa history. The tragedy spawned nearly ten years of grand jury investigations and three sensational trials all centered around the Montgomery County Court House in Red Oak. The case made and broke political careers and led to the establishment of the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation. The murders also split residents of the small community of Villisca, Iowa over the guilt or innocence of a local suspect, Iowa State Senator Frank Fernando Jones.
One hundred years later, the tragic unsolved murder now attracts visitors and tourists to the privately-owned Villisca Ax Murder House. The mystery has generated books, a play, paranormal investigations, television programs, a fictional film and feature-length documentary. The Rundles' Villisca: Living with a Mystery premiered in 2004, enjoyed a limited theatrical release in over 60 cities including Los Angeles where it qualified for the 2005 Academy Award® competition. The film screened in Red Oak in 2004 in the courtroom where the 1916 and 1917 axe murder trials took place. Villisca is still available nationally on DVD from online and conventional retailers and it can be rented from Netflix and Family Video. Broadcasts continue on IPTV, WQPT and other PBS stations in 2012.
The critically-acclaimed documentary tells the epic true story of the Children's Day axe murders and the chaos and division that followed. The husband and wife team combined rare period photographs, computer animation, original art, limited re-enactments, and fascinating interviews with historians, eye-witnesses, town residents, and forensic experts to shed light on the spellbinding mystery and to dramatically reveal the face of a new suspect.
The Rundles are also offering a sneak preview of their 25-minute documentary AXMAN. It was in 1955, when a young college student named Edgar Epperly began researching the details behind Iowa's worst mass homicide, the 1912 Villisca Axe Murders. Now, nearly 60 years later, the retired college professor is still actively searching for a solution to the crime. Exclusive interviews with Epperly and others close to his unique work reveal the secret reason behind his dogged devotion to America's greatest unsolved mystery.
Courtesy Fourth Wall Films. Copyright 2011.
The Rundles' award-winning feature-length documentary, Country School: One Room - One Nation will also screen at the History Center on Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 2 p.m. The film features the Pittsburg School in Red Oak, the Cramer School in Stanton, and the Goldenrod school in Clarinda. Country School recently won a Telly Award for "Excellence in a Television Documentary".
Stepping outside their work on historical documentaries, Kelly and Tammy have partnered with Kent and Earlene Hawley of Waverly, Iowa to produce the docudrama Sons and Daughters of Thunder. The film is based on the critically-acclaimed play by Earlene and tells the unforgettable true story of the beginning of the end of slavery in America.
The Rundles began production on the project in Cincinnati, Ohio last fall and spent time at the Harriet Beecher Stowe House meeting with representatives. Production continues in July 2012 and in the Fall. Fundraising for the project is underway and completion of the film is anticipated in 2013. For more information on how to help support Sons and Daughters of Thunder visit www.LaneRebelsMovie.com or email email@example.com.
View the film's teaser here: THUNDER TEASER LINK.