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2012 News Releases

Film based on book by Longwood professor to premiere at Longwood

March 20, 2012

Dr. Steven Faulkner

The national premiere of WaterWalk, a film that chronicles the epic 1,000-mile canoe trip undertaken by a Longwood University English professor and his son, will be held Monday, April 16, at 7:30 p.m. in Longwood's Jarman Auditorium. The screening is free and open to the public.

The independent film is based on the book Dr. Steven Faulkner wrote about the 62-day journey, which retraced part of the route taken in 1673 by Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet, the French explorers credited with discovering the Mississippi River. Faulkner and his then-16-year-old son, Justin, traveled from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to St Louis, facing such obstacles as overcoming a near drowning and getting lost in a swamp, among other adventures.

The premiere is the centerpiece of several activities in Farmville celebrating the film's release.

On Thursday, April 5, a book signing with the author will be held from 1-2 p.m. in the Longwood University Barnes & Noble Bookstore. On April 16, the day of the premiere, a public presentation detailing how the trip became a book and then a movie will be held from 2:30-4 p.m. in Wygal Auditorium. Among those providing the details and answering questions will be Robert Cicchini, a veteran Hollywood actor who has appeared in more than 25 feature films, including The Godfather: Part III, who portrays Steven Faulkner and directed the film; Roger Rapoport, the film's producer; and Faulkner himself. Also on April 16, the principals from the film will visit Longwood classes and speak to students.

Although some details have been changed, the film is largely faithful to Faulkner's book, WaterWalk: A Passage of Ghosts, which was published by RDR Books in December 2008, more than 10 years after Faulkner and his son completed their journey. In 1996, Faulkner was a graduate student at the University of Kansas. He undertook the trip out of a desire to retrace Marquette and Joliet's route as well as to get closer to his son, whom he felt he'd been neglecting while focusing on his studies and working two jobs.

A Kansas native, Faulkner joined the Longwood faculty in 2006 and teaches creative writing. Unless the scene has been cut - even Faulkner hasn't seen the film - he will appear briefly on screen in a nonspeaking role. "They put me in a scene in which I play a disheveled swamp rat whittling on a stick who points them the way out of a swamp," he said with a laugh. "I'm not sure, but I think that scene will be left in. My students will probably have a good laugh out of that."

In addition to the premiere at Longwood, four theater chains in five states in the Midwest, involving more than 200 theaters, have agreed to show the film. Produced by Michigan Blue Lake Productions, the film was shot at many of the same locations in Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois that Faulkner and his son passed through on their trip. The film also will be shown in independent theaters, colleges and film festivals nationwide and in France.