Hope filmmaker Eva Wunderman has won a Golden Sheaf Award for her documentary Once Were Enemies.
She took home the award in the history and biography category on May 24 at the 2014 Yorkton Film Festival in Saskatchewan.
“It’s quite an honour, “said Wunderman. “It’s a prestigious award in the film industry. I never thought I was going to win because there were four other very good films. So it was a huge surprise.”
The documentary, which premiered in Canada at the Hope Cinema on March 27, explores the different perspectives of former Second World War enemies. Wunderman reunites U.S. tank commander Lee Smith and platoon leader Bill Cumbaa with Japanese survivors Tsuchida Kiyokazu and Shinji Karasumaru 60 years after the battle of Peleliu in Micronesia. Now in the their 80s, they relive their tragic time on the island, sharing secrets and personal stories.
On Sept. 15, 1944, U.S. forces landed on the southern invasion beaches of the small island of Peleliu. Almost 10,000 Japanese lay in wait in an elaborate system of tunnels, caves, pillboxes, and fortifications.
Sixteen thousand men and three month later, the U.S. forces finally defeated the Japanese defenders, some sealed inside their fortifications by armored bulldozers where they still remain. While much of the island is now overgrown by jungle, remnants of the war lay scattered throughout, everything from hand grenades and machine guns to airplane wreckage.
“It’s very special to receive this award after all the struggles that I had with this particular production,” said Wunderman, adding that the tapes sat on her shelves for 10 years before she was able to finish the film last year.
“It helps validate all the time and effort put into it … and know that what you’re doing has been appreciated.”