Directed by: Melody Gilbert & Rita Davern
Released: 2021 (educational)
Year of Production: 2020
Running Time: 57 min
Subtitle Options: English Closed Captions
Subjects: Indigenous Studies, American Studies
It’s a family reunion … what could go wrong? Plenty, as we soon learn when Rita Davern exposes an ugly reality at the heart of a family legend. Her family members have always been proud to say that their great grandparents once owned Pike Island, a beautiful piece of land at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. But when Rita relates what happened to the people who lived there before, some family members react with understanding, others with arguments and anger. Rita’s attempts to understand what happened and why leads her on a journey that requires facing the complicated legacy of westward expansion in the U.S. Along the way she meets Ramona, a Dakota educator. What Ramona’s ancestors experienced because of U.S. government policies puts faces and names on this story. Rita listens and learns. She wants to find a way to put something right. We learn the value of finding and facing the past by watching her journey.
Winner of Best of Fest at MSPIFF39 and Official Selection for Cucalorus Festival 2020 and San Francisco Indiefest 2021
“Deeply touching and important” – Star Tribune
About the filmmaker
Over the past 40 years, Rita Davern (originally Davoren) has traveled the Burren, birthplace of her grandmother’s people in County Clare, Ireland. Her daily life, like that of her father before her, includes time searching for the people, places and stories her immigrant ancestors left behind. When drinking tea with Irish friends and relatives, the conversation often turns to those who stayed and those who left, as the devastation of colonization, hunger and emigration took its toll. Rita knows first-hand that, for U.S. people with European heritage, reconnecting to our homeland and our cultural history adds huge richness to our lives. Rita worked as a communication and leadership trainer for twenty years. When her adopted Korean son became ill, she learned, and now teaches, Parenting-by-Connection, an approach to parenting that builds close, healing relationships with children through play. Stories I Didn’t Know is Rita’s first film. In 2020, Rita released a second film, Burren Girl, focused on her family history in the Burren region of County Clare, Ireland.
Melody Gilbert is an award winning documentary filmmaker who has directed, produced, shot and edited eight feature-length documentaries that have screened at noteworthy film festivals and been broadcast internationally. She also serves as a producer for other documentary projects that inspire her, including LOVE THEM FIRST: LESSONS FROM LUCY LANEY ELEMENTARY (2020 Alfred I. duPont award) and BENEATH THE INK (nominated for a 2019 Emmy for Outstanding Short Documentary that qualified for an Academy Award), WOMEN OUTWARD BOUND (2016/PBS)and the James Beard award-winning THE STARFISH THROWERS (2015). The films that Melody directs are noteworthy for featuring a rare intimacy with her subjects as she unearths previously hidden worlds. She works mostly solo and has the ability to get people to reveal their innermost thoughts, whether it’s the family of a child who can’t feel pain (A LIFE WITHOUT PAIN/SXSW), a former Vice President of the United States (FRITZ: THE WALTER MONDALE STORY/PBS), or people who have full- fledged relationships with synthetic companions (SILICONE SOUL, currently on STARZ). Melody is also a passionate educator currently on the faculty at Northwestern State University in the Department of New Media, Journalism, and Communication Arts. The Documentary Channel calls Melody “one of the most fearless filmmakers in contemporary documentary cinema.” Read more about Melody at www.frozenfeetfilm.com.
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