Filmmaker Mike Dorsey grew up hearing remarkable tales of heroism from his grandfather, who was captured by the Nazis during World War II. But when Dorsey realized the ranks of his grandfather’s fellow pilots was dwindling, he knew he had to record their story – fast.
Dorsey’s “Lost Airmen of Buchenwald,” which will screen at 2 p.m. May 20 at the upcoming G.I. Film Festival, makes sure his grandfather’s legacy is captured on film.
Dorsey’s grandfather was one of 168 airmen who were illegally imprisoned and marked for death by the Nazis at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
To make “Buchenwald,” Dorsey traveled to Germany and France to interview the camp’s survivors. That meant taking a small production crew abroad and coordinating with the airmen’s families.
“Each guy I talked to had a different piece of the story,” he says.
The trickiest part might have been unearthing the supporting footage and photographs to help visually tell their tale. He scoured museums and online databases, but he also had help from his subjects.
“The airmen themselves had a lot of stuff. They all had their own files from when they were prisoners,” he says.
The airmen have told their stories over and again over the past 65 or so years. But Dorsey says they still get emotional while describing the camaraderie between them as well as the emotional weight placed on their loved ones back home at the time.
“They get choked up when they talk about their family members,” he says.
Dorsey’s grandfather turns 90 next month, and all seven men featured in the film are still alive. He says he might do a follow-up project on his other grandfather, who was serving at Pearl Harbor at the time of the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
He’s a filmmaker, so it’s organic for him to tell these personal stories. But Dorsey suggests each of us can do his or her part to ensure these heroic acts aren’t forgotten.
“We all have to record this history while we can. Even if you’re not a filmmaker at least write it down,” he says.