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New documentary on the Teton Dam Flood to premiere in Rexburg Monday

“Flood of Memories” will premiere Monday at 7 p.m. at the Romance Theater at 2 East Main Street in Rexburg. | Courtesy photo
REXBURG — Homes torn from their foundations, floating down the street. Downtown buildings with water filling the basements and most of the main levels. Communities rapidly and methodically trying to reach one another to prevent loss of life.
It has been nearly 50 years since June 5, 1976, when the Teton Dam in Newdale failed during its inaugural year, spilling 80 billion gallons of water into eastern Idaho. The disaster killed 11 people and an estimated 15,000 livestock. It destroyed or damaged tens of thousands of acres of land and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage.
Historian Fred Woods, a religion professor at Brigham Young University, and filmmaker Christian Mawlam, a communications professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho, have teamed up to create “Flood of Memories,” a documentary that tells the story of the day of the flood and the ensuing days as east Idaho communities rebuilt after the disaster. The film is part of a series Woods is creating called “Saints by State,” which chronicles the stories of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have faced hardship with faith.
“Flood of Memories” will premiere Monday at 7 p.m. at the Romance Theater at 2 East Main Street in Rexburg. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The event is free to the public and all ages are welcome. Woods will introduce the film, which is about a half hour long, and there will be a Q&A afterward.
In the Romance Theater lobby, Rexburg Arts will also unveil a new painting by artist AnnMarie Oborn entitled “Willing Hearts and Hands.” The piece was created as a gift to The Museum of Rexburg to honor the volunteers who helped restore communities after the flood.
Woods and Mawlam interviewed about 20 people for the documentary project, taking special care to find individuals with firsthand accounts to share. Mawlam says there was some urgency to document these stories while those who lived through it were still alive and able to share their memories.
“Let’s just make sure that we get this done and we get this down now, because time is ticking,” Mawlam says. “Otherwise, we’ll be talking to the kids of the people this happened to.”
One of the youngest interviewees was Terri Hill, who was 15 years old at the time of the flood and lost her older brother, David, that day.
“A teenage girl talking about losing her older brother is profoundly moving,” Mawlam says.
Mawlam says that while the numerical stats about the flood are interesting, they only actually tell a little bit of the story.
“That’s a bit cold—factoids,” he says. “They can only take you so far, I think. The thing that really interests me are people who actually experienced it themselves.”
While the Teton Dam Flood was tragic and disrupted many thousands of lives, Mawlam says the documentary isn’t all doom and gloom.
“There are plenty of genuinely funny stories, and also plenty of tragedy,” he says. “We’re hardwired for good stories and interesting characters. These people experienced this catastrophic event in the same ways, but in some different ways as well.”
Mawlam says each of the more than 20 interviews were about 45 minutes in length, so they have hours and hours of footage. He says those interviews are being transcribed to be archived in the LDS Church archives and that the footage will also be used for future additions to the Teton Flood Exhibit. The documentary, he says, will take snippets of those interviews to give a snapshot of the life-changing event.
“This is a distillation of the flood,” he says. “It’s a concentrated dose of what happened that day and in the days and weeks following, and the impact it had. Not just statistically, but genuinely in the lives of others and the impact to the community and how the community changed as a result … It’s a pretty unique thing to happen.”
Mawlam says he and Woods set out to create something that would appeal to the viewer’s humanity and help people connect through these stories of facing hardship.
“We want people to be able to emotionally connect, and that’s one of the missions we had when we set out to do this,” he says. “I’d just be flippin’ crying (while editing the film). It’s genuinely moving because these are real people. This is their story and it’s one of those stories that needs to be heard.”
The post New documentary on the Teton Dam Flood to premiere in Rexburg Monday appeared first on East Idaho News.

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