The documentary, which was produced by Plattsburgh’s Mountain Lakes PBS in conjunction with commemorations of the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian Wars, will be seen in three of the biggest markets in the country: New York, Boston and San Francisco, said Janet Kennedy, the executive director of Lakes to Locks Passage, which underwrote the documentary.
Stations in Los Angeles and Philadelphia are considering broadcasts, said Kennedy.
“Mountain Lakes PBS is the smallest public television station in the country, so having one of its productions broadcast nationally is a remarkable achievement,” said Peter Repas, executive director of the Association of Public Broadcasting Stations of New York.
According to Colin Powers, Mountain Lakes PBS’s director of production and programming, for too many Americans, the French and Indian war is still the forgotten war, despite the fact that the 250th anniversary of the pre-Independence War conflict inspired countless new books and films.
Not only do relatively few Americans understand the role the conflict played in shaping the history of the North American continent, the significance of Lake George and Lake Champlain in determining the conflict’s outcome is often lost sight of, Powers said.
To remedy that defect, Powers and a team of producers, directors and writers spent more than two years creating “Forgotten War: The Struggle for North America,” an hour long documentary that will be seen on public broadcasting stations throughout the United States and Canada.
“We wanted to bring the war back to this corridor,” Powers said at the documentary’s premiere, which was held at Fort Ticonderoga. “An epic struggle for the fate of North America was played out right here in our own backyards. For five years—from 1755 to 1760—the battles raged at Lake George, Crown Point, Fort Ticonderoga, and Quebec as France, Britain and the native peoples of North America fought to decide who would control the crucial highway of rivers and lakes between New York and the city of Montreal.”
The film makers succeeded in restoring the primacy of northern New York to the historical narrative, said David Starbuck, the archaeologist who has conducted excavations at Fort George and Fort William Henry.
“They did a great job of putting this area front and center,” said Starbuck, who served as one of the film’s consultants.
According to Powers, the film makers hoped to restore a perspective that many historians felt had been distorted by the PBS documentary “The War that made America,” which was filmed near Pittsburgh.
Much of “Forgotten War” was filmed in and around Fort Ticonderoga, using the 2000 re-enactors who show up every year as extras.
“They’re re-enactors, not actors, so we frequently had to re-stage scenes,” said Damian Panetta, the documentary’s producer and director.
Panetta and associate producer Karin O‘Connell elicited the advice not only of scholars but of the descendants of those who participated in the conflict.
“I was very cognizant of trying to tell a balanced story so I spoke to British, French, French Canadian, British Canadian, Scottish, American, Iroquios, Abenaki, and Mohican peoples,” said O’Connell.
The result, said Colin Powers, is a documentary that gives proper weight to Native Americans and the American colonists.
The French and Indian War is a forgotten war not merely because it has been overshadowed by the War of Independence, but also because it contains so many forgotten stories, said Powers.
According to Powers, ‘Forgotten War’ will be a rich resource long after it has been shown on television.
In addition to the full-length documentary, the producers have created videos that will be available at historic sites, a website with
downloadable content, and educational curriculum that meet state curriculum standards.
“This was a project that took more than two years to complete,” said Alice Recore, the president and CEO of Mountain Lakes PBS. “I hope viewers will feel that it was well worth the time and the effort.”
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