FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASECONTACT: Ramona Kelly
Center for American History
Belgian Resistance and U.S. P-47 Pilot featured in “Last Best Hope,” a PBS documentary, October 30, 2006
AUSTIN, TX—September 13, 2006—Sixty-one years after the end of WWII, a gripping, poignant, and little known war story has emerged in a new documentary film that will air nationwide on PBS this fall, thanks to the resolve of the pilot’s son and an independent Austin-based filmmaking team. The film, “Last Best Hope: A True Story of Escape, Evasion, and Remembrance,” which was shot on location in Belgium and France, has been six years in the making. It will air on PBS at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time (check local listings).
“Last Best Hope” reveals the moral courage expressed by ordinary Belgian citizens, disenfranchised by Hitler’s brutal fascist regime, who came together in extraordinary ways to aid one downed American fighter pilot.
At the heart of the story is 85-year old American Bill Grosvenor, a P-47 Thunderbolt pilot who fell from the skies over Belgium and into the hands of the Resistance in 1943. In the summer of 2001, nearly sixty years later, Grosvenor was reunited with his helpers in Belgium who fought against tyranny and oppression in their homes, in their neighborhoods, and in the streets of Brussels. In the film, Resistance fighters share for the first time their daring and heartrending stories, allowing “Last Best Hope” to examine the myriad motivations that propel one stranger to help another, despite the risk to his or her own life and everything dear. As unexpectedly as the Gestapo snared Grosvenor in an early morning safehouse raid, “Last Best Hope” transports the viewer to another place and time with a universal message about faith, hope, and the undefeatable power of the human spirit.
Stunning and cathartic, “Last Best Hope” takes even the most jaded WWII film buff by surprise.
The film was produced by Bill Grosvenor’s son, David Grosvenor, who resides in Dripping Springs, Texas, just outside of Austin, and producer Ramona Kelly, of Austin. Mat Hames, co-owner of the Austin-based post-production company, Alpheus Media, is the director, writer, and editor. Wilson Waggoner, also a co-owner of Alpehus Media, is the director of photography. Other members of the film crew include associate executive producer Walter Verstraeten of Antwerp, Belgium.
An original score by internationally acclaimed composer and Abilene native Stephen Barber accompanies the film.
THE SIX-YEAR ODYESSY OF LAST BEST HOPE
“Ramona Kelly and I started working on the film about my dad in June of 2000. We thought that the story of his experiences during the war would make for an interesting documentary,” commented David Grosvenor. “After we got into our research, though, we realized that this story was much bigger than we originally thought. It’s really the story of the brave men and women in Belgium who risked everything to save downed Allied pilots like my dad.”
Director Mat Hames explained why he was drawn to the tale of Bill Grosvenor and the Belgian Resistance: “We’re losing these people – they’re slipping away from us. Very soon all we’re going to have left is their stories. That to me is a very sad prospect and I hope that by preserving their stories, what they experienced can be preserved and we can learn from them. I think it’s much easier to understand current events if you can put them into the context of the last 100 years at least.
Through painstaking research, the producers were able to locate dozens of individuals in Belgium who helped Bill Grosvenor during his period of evasion. Much of the film was produced on location in Belgium and includes interviews with Grosvenor’s helpers in the Resistance. During a July, 2001 production in Belgium, Bill Grosvenor’s P-47 was excavated from the field where he crashed in 1943, and the filmmakers were there to capture this event on camera.
The producers returned to Belgium in the spring of 2004 after they discovered additional Resistance fighters whose families had harbored Bill Grosvenor during his evasion in Brussels. In the fall of 2005, the Belgian Royal family invited the film team to screen an early version of the film in Brussels during a reunion of Belgium’s famed “Comete” escape line. Members of the audience included Prince Philip and Resistance fighters who were interviewed for the film, as well as their families.
“There were many times in the past six years when our funding ran out, and all we had to sustain us was our hope and faith in this story,” explained executive producer Ramona Kelly. “Thanks to the Kingdom of Belgium, the American Embassy in Belgium, several U.S. foundations, and hundreds of individuals who shared our passion and determination, we were eventually able to raise about $400,000 through grants and contributions. This film has friends around the world who are thrilled that we were able to finish it and can now share this little-known but very important story with people everywhere.”
Other contributors to the film include the Dodge Jones Foundation, the Still Water Foundation, the Barber Foundation, the Dian Graves Owen Foundation, Humanities Texas, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Kingdom of Belgium, and The University of Texas at Austin Center for American History, as well as countless individuals in Abilene, Austin, Dallas, and across the U.S.
FILM FESTIVAL SUCCESS
“Last Best Hope” recently won a gold award at Houston’s Worldfest International Film Festival and is an official selection of the Dallas Video Festival, the Jackson Hole International Film Festival, the Calgary International Film Festival, and the Texas Independent Filmmakers Festival. The film was screened in Mt. Vernon, Texas, on September 9, and will be screened at Austin’s Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum on October 10, the Texas Independent Filmmakers Festival in San Antonio on October 14, the Alamo Drafthouse theater in downtown Austin on October 15, the San Diego Cinema Society on October 24, and at the Naval Heritage Center in Washington D.C. on October 27.
LEARN MORE ABOUT LAST BEST HOPE
A trailer, photo gallery, clips from the film, and information about the Belgian Resistance is available at http://www.alpheusmedia.com/lastbesthope.