Hero Street to be subject of new documentary

Originally Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2012, 11:31 pm
Last Updated: Nov. 11, 2012, 1:16 am
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By Jonathan Turner jturner@qconline.com

The inspiring story of Silvis' Hero Street is well-known in the Quad-Cities area. Now Moline filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle have started working on a feature-length documentary film that will bring the tale to a global audience.

"It's a great story," said Mr. Rundle, whose projects with his wife include features on the 1912 Villisca, Iowa axe murders; the Ioway Indian tribe; one-room country schools in the Midwest; Iowa's Route 6; and movie star Jean Seberg, an Iowa native.

"We look for subjects that have a local or regional awareness, that should have a much wider awareness. We'd been looking for a local topic, and this seemed perfect," he said recently. "For us, we're looking to find a connection between history stories and today, because who cares about history if you don't see why it's still meaningful? This is a way to look at a story that really starts with the Mexican Revolution and really comes up to now.

"This is a typical American story," he said of the 110 Mexican-American residents of Silvis' 2nd Street (later renamed Hero Street) who served in the armed forces since 1929. "They came to this country; they were enduring a lot of hardship before they came here. They endured more when they got here. Their children did better; their grandchildren did better. It's the American immigration success story."

Only a block and a half long, 2nd Street in Silvis lost six young men in World War II and two in the Korean War -- more than any other street in America. The Rundles' film will combine interviews with family members, veterans, community leaders, friends and historians with vintage photos, film and archival material to "tell an unforgettable story of American courage, character, and perseverance," according to the project website, HeroStreetMovie.com.

The planned 2014 documentary will be the first feature-length (90 minutes or more) film on the subject, Mr. Rundle said, noting Chicago station WGN and PBS previously have broadcast shorter episodes about it.

"None of those are available," he added. "Since they were produced exclusively for broadcast, they are unavailable," he said. "We market our titles on an ongoing basis. Once it is done, it will always be available."

"This is great," said former Silvis Mayor Joe Terronez, who was the driving force in creating Hero Street Memorial Park in 1971, and has been interviewed by the Rundles since they began preliminary work on the documentary in March. "It's a great World War II story. It hasn't really been known nationally."

"What's so good about this, too, is youth — instead of reading a book or story, they can see a video," Mr. Terronez, 83, said.

It's important to film the story now, since more members of this' generation are dying, he said, and it's better to record the memories of those closest to the heroes, Tammy Rundle said.

"It's very different to get it from a brother or sister, versus niece, nephew or grandchild," she said. "Speaking with people so far, I'm struck by how fresh the memories of growing up on 2nd Street are. ... The struggles, the poverty, the family, the brothers going off to war. The parents' emotional response to that, getting news of the loss of life."

Two of those closest to the Hero Street eight recently passed away.Raol Gomez, 81, of Moline, died Sept. 19; his brother Joseph (1929-1951) died in the Korean War. Al Sandoval, 80, the brother of hero William (1923-1944), died Aug. 27.

In March, the Rundles met with Al, who shared stories and encouraged them to make the documentary. Since then, the filmmakers have met withRuben and Rufina Sandoval (brother and sister to Hero Street's Willie), and three nephews of Claro Soliz (1920-1945). Brothers Frank, Tony and Sonny Soliz are best known for their efforts to create the permanent monument -- unveiled in 2007 at Hero Street — honoring the eight.

The Rundles also have interviewed Tanilo Sandoval, another sibling, who works tirelessly to maintain the memorial and put out flags on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

"We regard those who have helped memorialize the eight fallen men as heroes, too," the filmmakers said. "It's because of their perseverance and personal sacrifice that this story will be remembered by generations to come.This kind of participation and support from the families of the Hero Street Eight is essential to the success of the documentary film project."

The couple is especially impressed with the humility of those who have served. "They will say, 'We're not heroes,'" Mrs. Rundle said. "There's theincredible commitment to military service, the values they were taught, experience about growing up on Hero Street we want to get into. Youget the sense that everybody felt like they were just one big family."

One of the at least 50 people to be interviewed on film will be Marc Wilson of Hampton, whose book on the subject, "Hero Street U.S.A.," was first published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 2009.

A Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and author based in Miami, Carlos Harrison, is also writing a new book, "Ghosts of Hero Street," that is expected to be published in fall 2013.

The Rundles are asking people to contact them through the herostreetmovie.com site if they have photos, stories, letters or other materials to share for potential use in the film.

They're usingthe "crowd-funding" website Indiegogo to test the waters and raise money, "so we can continue to do interviews during the winter months," Mr. Rundle said, noting their campaign is at indiegogo.com/hero-street-movie.This method allows anyone to make a non-tax-deductible contribution toward the project.

The Rundles also are looking for a local nonprofit organization willing to be a fiscal sponsor for the purposes of submitting humanities grant applications and obtaining contributions from individuals or businesses.

You can learn more about the Hero Street Memorial Monument by visiting herostreetusa.org.
For more information about the Rundles' films, visit fourthwallfilms.com.

Ceremony today at Hero Street

A Veterans Day service will begin at 11 a.m. today at Hero Street Memorial Park, 145 2nd St., Silvis.

Brig. Gen. Duane Gamble, deputy commanding general, Army Sustainment Command, Rock Island Arsenal, will be the featured speaker. For more information, call (309) 792-9181.


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