Award-winning docudrama on slavery to be shown for free Nov. 9 in Davenport

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Jessica Taylor plays a young Harriet Beecher and Thomas Alan Taylor is abolitionist Theodore Weld in the docudrama “Sons and Daughters of Thunder.”

A special screening of the award-winning docudrama “Sons & Daughters of Thunder” will be showcased at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 2136 Brady St., Davenport, on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. The event is free to the public.

A Q&A with Emmy-winning filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle of Moline-based Fourth Wall Films, executive producer Kimberly Kurtenbach, the films’ stars Jessica Taylor and Thomas Alan Taylor, and the film’s composer William Campbell will follow the film.

The docudrama received three Mid-America Emmy nominations in 2020, including for original score by St. Ambrose music professor Bill Campbell. “Sons & Daughters of Thunder” is based on the play by Earlene Hawley and Curtis Heeter, and tells the unforgettable true story of the beginning of the end of slavery in America, set in 1834 at Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. The film was shot by award-winning director of photography Kevin Railsback.

The debates about slavery, highly influenced by abolitionist and Lane Seminary student Theodore Weld (played by Tom Taylor), took place at the Lane Theological Seminary and planted a seed in the mind of young writer Harriet Beecher (played by Tom’s wife, Jessica), who would later combine her experiences in Cincinnati and Kentucky to write the worldwide phenomenon Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

“The Lane Debates were really the beginning of Harriet’s awareness about what was going on in terms of slavery. You really see this story through Harriet’s eyes,” producer Tammy Rundle said in a piece about the film on St. Paul’s website. “She’s an observer and not participating much because that’s the way Harriet was. And she could not have written Uncle Tom’s Cabin without these formative years in Cincinnati. Everything that took place, she witnessed, she experienced.”

“There is no Uncle Tom’s Cabin without Cincinnati, without the Lane Debates,” added director/editor Kelly Rundle. “It was life-altering. It was history-altering, that book.”

Teaching pastor Peter A. Pettit was drawn to the relevance of this story that happened nearly 200 years earlier.

“This film discussion is so worthwhile,” Pettit said. “It’s so easy to get tired of wrestling with these big issues but what (Theodore) Weld helped the seminary to realize is that the issues are daily life for large communities of people who don’t have the opportunity to turn off thinking about these things. That invites, if not compels us, to pay attention.”

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