Archive for Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bleeding Kansas focus of new film

May 31, 2005


The history of Bleeding Kansas has hit the big screen.

Kansas filmmakers have completed a feature-length documentary about the tumultuous period of 1854-1861 in Kansas, which many historians credit for sparking the Civil War.

"Touched by Fire" is being shown throughout the state and will hit statewide television in July.

"We want to tell the story," said Jonathan Goering, one of the filmmakers. "There are books out on it, but no documentaries."

The 80-minute film incorporates 100 historical photographs, footage of reenactments, interviews with historians and music from the era.

"Documentaries can be boring," said Goering, a Wichita resident. "They can be a little dry. We tried to make this historically strong but entertaining for people who don't have a passion for history like we do."

The idea came from Ken Spurgeon, an Andover resident and administrator at Cowley County Community College who knew Goering from Civil War reenactments. Spurgeon and Goering worked about two years on the project.

The film includes profiles of key players such as Free State advocates James Lane and Charles Robinson. It also includes the pro-slavery perspective in addition to the Free State perspective, Goering said.

Footage shot at several local sites was used, including the Black Jack battlefield near Baldwin, where in June 1856 Free State and pro-slavery forces fought what is considered by some historians to be the first battle of the Civil War. The documentary also includes an interview with Rita Napier, an associate professor of history at Kansas University.

"It's an enormous story," Goering said. "You're talking seven years. We had to pick and choose what we wanted to include, highlight the high points and the major events that took place."

The film already has been shown in Concordia and Hutchinson. Another screening is set for June 24 at the Orpheum Theater in Wichita.

It will hit television screens across the state at 7:30 p.m. July 21, when it will air on PBS stations including Sunflower Broadband Channels 7 and 11 in Lawrence.

Goering said he's also hoping to have a screening in Lawrence in August, during the Civil War on the Western Frontier events.

Next on the filmmakers' agenda: finishing a documentary called "Bloody Dawn," about William Quantrill's 1863 rampage through Lawrence.

Goering, who grew up near Hutchinson, said he's hoping to take the Bleeding Kansas history to a new generation of Kansans.

"Honestly, I don't remember studying Bleeding Kansas history in elementary school," he said. "I don't remember studying the story. But Kansas has an amazing history."

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