Stinging Dust & Forgotten Lives: The Dust Bowl
Educational Version: Stinging Dust & Forgotten Lives: The Dust Bowl from Tempestas et Caelum Films on Vimeo. Director's Cut :: Stinging Dust & Forgotten Lives: The Dust Bowl from Tempestas et Caelum Films on Vimeo.
EIU Duo Produce Dust Bowl Film to Change Perceptions
Ponder for a moment that you are huddled around a dimly lit lamp in a vast dusty room with your family. All eyes have a look of fear from the gusty winds shaking your home. The next morning, after the storm blows over, you look outside to find your house, barn, animals, fence, and water well have all been buried by feet of soil. All is lost. You must live...but how?
Over a hundred years ago people left the American east to find a better life. They migrated and established homestead throughout the Great Plains. There, they would prosper with fields of plenty, until, they exhausted the land. Again, they migrated westward to find a better life and provide opportunities for their starving children.
STINGING DUST & FORGOTTEN LIVES presents the effects of the Dust Bowl on humanity during the 1930s. Meteorological conditions are often the first to blame, however, it was economic gain of the nation that doubled the unfortunate fate of the dusters.
Introduction to Stinging Dust & Forgotten Lives: The Dust Bowl
While Craig was working toward receiving his Master's degree in 2001, he took a course on Arid Lands and became fascinated by the causes of the drought of the 1930s. In his research for the course, he came across several historical documents from survivors of the event that told of the harsh living conditions, the struggle to feed their families, and the individual's depression that made life difficult. These documents brought to life a story that needed to be told in a different way.
Focusing on the human element, Craig gathered photographs from the Library of Congress showing facial expressions of the struggle. Each image of a person that lived through the period that made it to the final cut pulls at the heart of the viewer. Although the narration attempts to convey the feelings of the dusters, the images fully provide the viewer what was going on in their minds. The photographers who recorded the expressions of the people left us an excellent description of a time that history books could not reproduce in totality.
A bonus for the film was the hundreds of audio clips recorded at Farm Security Administration camps throughout the United States in 1939-1941 by two Library of Congress representatives, Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin. Using some of these recordings was very important to the film as they provide viewers with true stories from people who experienced the Dust Bowl first hand. Of the clips used, the best description of what it was like to go from place to place looking for a job was a poem written by Imogene Chapin and recorded by Todd and Sonkin. The poem read by her really brings to life a certain feeling of the times experienced by so many.
You might be asking, "what was the purpose behind creating the film?" The answer is the future. The stories and expressions recorded on disc and film provide us with the warnings we need to heed. The natural environment is fragile and if we do not heed the warnings left by those before us, the future will be difficult for our children's children.
STINGIING DUST & FORGOTTEN LIVES: THE DUST BOWL was released on November 2, 2008.
Student and Faculty Participants
- Kevin Jeanes (Co-Director and Narrator)
- Cameron Douglas Craig (Co-Director and Editor)
- John P. Stimac, Ph.D. (voice of Dr. Sturdevant)
Students' Perceptions Change about the Dust Bowl after Watching Stinging Dust & Forgotten Lives
The film, written and directed by EIU Geology/Geography instructor Cameron Craig, has been used in two courses in every semester since the fall of 2008 for the purpose of changing students' perception about the harsh conditions and the strong emotions humans endured during the Dust Bowl.
Before Craig shows the film, he asks his nearly 125 students what they know about the Dust Bowl. Many students respond with, "It was dusty," or "People died." After a few minutes of discussing the prior knowledge of the what the students know, he shows the film. Craig enjoys observing student's reactions to things by watching their facial reactions to certain points in his films. "It is amazing to see the shaking of student's heads in disbelief when they see or hear something they never considered or learned before in their education." It is at that moment that Craig made a change in the students' perception about a topic they only glanced over in history text books. "These films we produce offer a different perspective to understanding the human element." When the film has finished, Craig opens the discussion with, "What do you think?" The most numerous comment is, "It is depressing to see the faces of those who had to struggle day to day. I had no idea how difficult it was for those people." Craig, excited to hear that his students' perceptions have changed responds, "Mission accomplished."
Many instructors and teachers at different levels (3-12 and university) have used the film in their classrooms to enlighten their students of a difficult time in American history. Craig invites teachers and instructors to use the film and its resources to increase student's awareness of a time so different from our own.
There are two versions of the film, the education version and the full-length Director's Cut which has aired on PBS stations throughout the Midwest. Teacher resources for grades 3-12 are available on this website.