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Documentary screening at The Grand today

NEW ULM — The Grand Center for Arts and Culture will host a special screening of the documentary “Two Weeks in May” today.

The film was made by local students at Minnesota State University, Mankato. It documents the events leading up to the day in May 1972 in which thousands of student protestors shut down the Highway 169 bridge.

MSU professor Monika Antonelli served as the producer and writer for the project, but said it was mostly students working to put the film together. The documentary served as Director Ryan Neil’s capstone project. Others who worked on the project included MSU students Taylor Diedrich, Joshua Nyanie, Andrew Grabowska and many others.

Antonelli said the idea for the project came from MSU’s common read project. This year MSU Mankato is celebrating its 150th anniversary. To celebrate the campus’s history, the book “Out of Chaos” was selected.

“Out of Chaos” was written by a former president of the University, Dr. James F. Nickerson, with input from those were there during the 1972 protests. The former president had since passed away, but a great deal of material from the book was available in the form of notes, and some raw footage was found.

Antonelli thought this could make for a good documentary, but her background was in theatre. She contacted the Film Department, correctly guessing some of the film students would like to take on the project.

The student documentarians were fortunate because several people from the 1972 protest were still in town, as well as some of the original MSU staff. A few others who moved away agreed to be interviewed, including Vietnam veteran John Anderson.

Antonelli said she was surprised to learn the subject matter was still controversial today.

“The witnesses were so divided over the war,” she said. The Vietnam War was perhaps the most divisive time in the United States since the Civil War, and in some ways that divide remains.

Most of the film students noticed the conflicts from 46 years ago are mirrored in the modern day.

The students asked many of those interviewed if they see a reflection of today’s politics. Some can see it, other cannot.

The documentary has been a great way of educating students about local students. Antonelli said many were unaware of the activism happening here before them. “The history we have serves as a foundation for what we can do.”

“Two Weeks in May” has been screened for a few audiences already. The response has been positive. Antonelli said the only real criticism has been related to information not covered by the documentary.

Antonelli said if information was left out, it was because the filmmakers did not have it or a source available to tell them about it. “We’re not trying to conceal anything,” Antonelli assured.

The story of the student protest and the political climate was not easy to condense into a documentary. Antonelli said the original plan was to create a 20-minute documentary, but it was eventually expanded into a 50-minute film.

To make the documentary, the crew of film students needed to boil down hours of interviews and archival footage to under an hour.

The result is a powerful documentary about the mood and feelings of time decades in the past, but not forgotten.

The public is invited to attend the free screening. The doors to The Grand open at 6:30 p.m. with the film starting at 7 p.m. The New Ulm Film Society will hold a special question and answer session after the screening. Antonelli will attend the screening along with Anderson who was interviewed for the film.

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