Reader's View: Film on runestone needed more balance
Mike Scholtz’s screening of a tentative version of his latest film was well-received, if audience reaction was an indication. Spontaneous hoots and chortles regularly emanated from the packed Zinema theater in Duluth as Scholtz poked fun at the small-town culture of Kensington, Minn., where his family has roots (“‘The Lost Legend of Viking America’ gets a test screening,” June 26).
Seems Kensingtonians are quite proud of the medieval Scandinavian runestone discovered near their town and the mythology surrounding it. Scholtz does his best to burst their bubble and call into question the authenticity of the highly unusual artifact, as many runestone-deniers before him have attempted to do.
In my view, the film is one part a deft and delightful romp through a cast of often-naive and sometimes-eccentric real-life true believers and one part a rather a one-sided, heavy-handed attempt to debunk a small town’s local mythology. The film could have benefited from and deserved true documentary status from a more balanced telling of the runestone story.
The filmmaker’s selection of local rustic folks as runestone enthusiasts — some of them deserving of the title “roonie loonie” — and younger, more-photogenic,
better-educated and articulate runestone skeptics showed his bias. I happen to know there are those with credentials and accreditation in their respective fields of linguistics, geology and anthropology who could have been invited to appear in the film and talk about their well-documented and sometimes peer-reviewed evidence supporting the runestone’s authenticity. With Scholtz’s obvious skill in weaving a story, he easily could have inserted their voice into the narrative to tell the other side of the story, to twist the plot a bit, and perhaps to surprise and delight his audience even more. The finished result would have been a more balanced and satisfying reality-based film.