Voices of a Never Ending Dawn, a documentary on the 5,500 young American soldiers who were unexpectedly chosen to fight the first Communists in Northern Russia while the rest of World War I was being waged in France in other parts of Europe, makes its West Coast premiere Wednesday at Chapman University's film school.
It's the latest project from filmmaker Pamela Peak, whose award-winning documentary Colorblind airs on the public television stations KOCE/Channel 50 of Huntington Beach and KCET/Channel 28 of Los Angeles.
Voices of a Never Ending Dawn will air on Detroit public television in November and other PBS stations in 2010, according to Peak.
Her grandfather, Guy Campus, was among the soldiers on that mission. They called themselves "The Polar Bears" because only polar bears are supposed to be able to survive in the 60 degrees below zero weather they were forced to fight in.
"Because of the midnight sun, these soldiers never knew if it was night or dawn, so they simply kept fighting," Peak says.
She and her crew got in the spirit by filming re-enactment scenes in waist-deep snow and below-zero temperatures north of Traverse City, Michigan. In fact, a driving, unexpected snowstorm struck in mid-January, supplying all the Northern Russia winter of 1918 set decoration the production required.
Among those who appear on camera are U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan), who tells of historic documents he uncovered that first introduced him to The Polar Bears, many of whom hailed from that state.
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The local sneak preview will be held at 7 p.m. in Folino Theatre at Chapman University's Marion Knott Studios, 283 N. Cypress St., Orange. Admission is free, but one must RSVP as seating is extremely limited.
That's because so many of those seats will already be filled by locals affiliated with the project.
As Peak did with Colorblind, she tapped into Orange County talent when it came to voice-over actors and post-production crews for Voices of a Never Ending Dawn. The local screening is being co-presented by the Media Alliance of Orange County, some of whose members worked on the new documentary.