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LDS Film Festival documentary tells story of a persecuted people

Published: Friday, Jan. 22 2010 12:27 a.m. MST

OREM, Utah — "I am from Nowhere: The People History Ignored" should resonate with Mormons.The story is about a persecuted people who did nothing to deserve the abuse heaped upon them. They were driven from their homes. Their possessions were taken from them. They were taunted and mocked because they were different.It's an emotionally laden documentary that — like most of the work being presented at the 9th annual LDS Film Festival at the SCERA Center for the Arts — was put on film because the filmmaker has a personal interest in the subject matter.Johnathan Martin of Provo is a quarter Lemko, and his mother is half Lemko. (Lemko refers to a people who originally inhabited the Carpathian Mountains in eastern Europe.)He's passionate about telling the story, one that has never been told in film before in an American documentary, because he believes the Polish government owes the Lemko people an apology.Martin believes the story of these people who were scattered across Poland, Ukraine and Slovakia in an effort to eliminate them as a people needs to get out."I find this film to be important not just for people in Utah Valley, but all over the world as it recognizes not only the need to understand our heritage and where it is we come from, but to also stand up and take pride in our identity no matter the cost," Martin said.The 37-minute documentary was filmed in Poland, Canada, Slovakia and the United States with interviews that include historian Paul Best describing the ethnic cleansing effort and survivors telling the stories they remember as their families were uprooted. In each instance, one family would be left behind to teach those coming in to live in their homes and villages to understand the rivers and the land. Some were sent to concentration camps. Some still don't understand why they were chosen for extinction."We're not supposed to exist by now," said one Lemko man.Before 1945, there were an estimated 1 million Lemko people. Today there are less than 20,000. But they are determined to endure.They gather at annual festivals to dress in their colorful native costumes and sing and dance."It's kind of a sad story," Martin said, "but this is a really good opportunity to tell this story."The film festival is expected to draw several thousand viewers who will screen 13 films and more than two dozen shorts and documentaries over four days.The festival continues through Saturday.One-day event tickets are $25, and all-event passes are $55, available at the SCERA, located at 745 S. State.Friday and Saturday's major movies include a special anniversary showing of Richard Dutcher's "God's Army," BYU's "Fire Creek," "Yankles," "White on Rice," and a seconding showing of the festival opener "You're So Cupid."A number of workshops and forum presentations will honor LDS filmmakers, including Kels Goodman, Michael Flynn, Dennis Agle, Jeff Parkin, Jarden Cardon, Dagen Merrill, Joshua Ligairi, Dave Hunter, Dennis Packard, Steven Lee and Maclain Nelson. To see a complete listing, visit: www.ldsfilmfestival.org.Winners of a 24-hour filmmaking marathon and a short film competition will be announced Saturday.


E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com

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