Everyday life captured on Iron Range documentary
It is the day-to-day of Iron Range living that interests documentary filmmakers Doug and Mary Lou Nemanic: trips to the barbershop, people at religious services and celebrations or a certain building that might not last forever.
The Nemanics have spent more than 30 years shooting photographs and video and collecting footage from the generations of people who have lived on the Cuyuna, Mesabi and Vermilion ranges. These images are featured in the film "The Iron Range Family Album," which will be screened for an audience for the first time at 7 p.m. today at the Mesabi East High School Auditorium.
The preview is a benefit for the Northern Lights Music Festival for gifted musicians, which started at the end of June and runs through July 16. The program matches young musicians with internationally known musicians and includes chamber and solo concerts.
Doug Nemanic said with this film they looked for subjects outside of the oft-photographed mines.
"Even the people who work in the mines don't spend their life in the mines," he said. "They go to kids' soccer games. These are the kind of things that, when they're gone in 10 years, people will say, 'We should have taken a photo of that.' "
The hourlong film includes footage taken from about
40,000 photographs shot by the Nemanics and volunteers. There is a bit of narration and music by Iron Range artists such as Rich Mattson of The Tisdales and The Bitter Spills and Veda Zuponcic, a professor of piano at Rowan University and the
artistic director for the Northern Lights Music Festival.
The Nemanics live in Pennsylvania and teach at Penn State Altoona. Doug Nemanic grew up on the Iron Range, and Mary Lou Nemanic is from the
Twin Cities. They both have a background in media and filmmaking and have returned to the Iron Range occasionally to continue studying the changing culture of the area.
Even things like gas prices are worth documenting, Mary Lou Nemanic said.
"We both have the ability to see how things change and the bigger picture," she said. "So we try to look ahead."
Capturing the Iron Range appealed to the couple because of its ethnic diversity and the way cultures have blended together. This can be seen during a celebration like the Fourth of July, when American flags fly with Swedish flags, Mary Lou Nemanic said.
"It started out as such a special place, so remote. They dumped so many immigrants together with all of these clashing cultures. Some of these groups hate each other in Europe," she said.
"The Iron Range is such a difficult place to live," Doug Nemanic said. "People needed each other to survive and put aside their differences."
One part of the film features some of the final footage of the longtime Chisholm Drum and Bugle Corps, who performed "Over There" just for the benefit of the Nemanics' video camera before performing in a parade. They disbanded soon after, which made catching them when they did important.
"A lot of the places you can't photograph anymore," Doug Nemanic said. "The trees are so big there is no vantage point anymore. Some of the mines expanded and eliminated their view."