New park documentary ‘does it all’

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 22, 2010

A piece of Vicksburg history became history itself Thursday night, as the 1970s-era Vicksburg National Military Park visitor documentary, “In Memory of Men,” was shown for the final time.

The park’s new movie, “Where Brothers Fought,” premiered immediately after.

“The film that we have today — the quality is first-rate — it does everything we wanted it to do,” said VNMP operations manager Rick Martin. “We wanted to show everything — the campaign, civilian life, everything that was happening here.”

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About 150 people attended the showing at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center, which included remarks by Martin, new VNMP superintendent R. Michael Madell and filmmaker Lenny Rotman of Boston’s Northern Light Productions which produced, filmed and edited the documentary.

Rotman talked about his initial meetings with Martin, park historian Terry Winschel and other park staff and the challenges of getting every detail they wanted into the movie.

Produced on a lean budget of $250,000 — other parks have had twice as much to work with, Martin said — the film gives park visitors a detailed portrait of Vicksburg during the battle and siege. Included are re-enactments featuring actors portraying both Union and Confederate soldiers and townspeople, music and voice-over soundtrack, and detail shots that include city streets and homes, Mississippi River bluffs, battle trenches, caves, explosions, and wounded and dying soldiers.

Opening shots show soldiers marching toward the city, then cut away to a close-up of Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Played by Paul Bennett, a local actor who has performed with the Vicksburg Theatre Guild, Grant has several featured shots in the film, always with cigar in hand.

Bennett said he did not have to change sides to portray Grant, because he is not a native Southerner. “It was a lot of fun,” he said.

Trying out for the role, he said, a costume was provided but he took his own cigar. “I have had a few cigars in my time,” he said with a smile.

Many other local actors and crew who worked on the film attended and were introduced.

“Where Brothers Fought” was filmed in Vicksburg April 24 and 25. Additional scenes were filmed in Richmond, Va.

“I hope the film will run for many years and provide insight into what happened here, when brothers fought brothers almost 150 years ago,” said Rotman.

In appreciation, Madell and Martin presented Rotman with a wooden VNMP arrowhead signed by cast members and park staff, as well as an honorary coin. Only three people outside park service staff have ever been given the coin, Martin said.

Asked how long the new film will be around, Martin said, “Who knows? It’ll be here for a while.”

The old VNMP visitor documentary will be preserved in the park’s archives, Martin said.


Contact Pamela Hitchins at