Kelly and Tammy Rundle had small hopes for their 2008 documentary, “Lost Nation: The Ioway.”
But since its release, it’s been shown 99 times — with the 100th showing set for Saturday night at Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island. It will be shown next week during the Native American Film Series at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Los Angeles.
The documentary also has been shown and well-received at several film festivals where pre-World War II documentaries scarcely get any notice.
But most of all, it has helped bring attention to a part of history that generally had been forgotten: the Ioway, an American Indian tribe from which the state received its name. Previously, one book written about the tribe constituted its documented history.
“People see this film and wonder, ‘Why didn’t I know about this story before?’” said Kelly Rundle, who is based in Moline with his wife and fellow filmmaker. “Particularly Iowans are that way. It’s a great story and something they should have known about but didn’t.”
The documentary also has struck a chord with schools and colleges, and it fits into the state of Iowa’s new core curriculum for classrooms.
“Even though it wasn’t (recorded) Iowa history, it hit all the themes the core curriculum was built around,” Kelly Rundle said.
Besides the critical acclaim, the film has been embraced by the American Indian community. The Ioway, who now live in Oklahoma, presented honorary tribal membership to the Rundles — the first time such an honor was given to a non-American Indian.
“They consider us family now,” Tammy Rundle said. “Whenever we call, they’ll say, ‘Don’t forget, you’re part of our family now.’”
In the fall of 2008, when the Rundles expected their work on the movie to reach a conclusion, they were invited by several elders of the tribe to participate in a spirit ceremony during which the couple was taken to a fireside gathering of the ancestors and received Ioway names.
“That was pretty emotional, that whole ceremony,” Tammy Rundle said.
The movie is scheduled to air on Iowa Public Television in October and on Public Broadcasting System stations in Illinois, including WQPT in Moline, as a celebration of Native American History Month.
It has spun off two more, shorter documentaries for the Rundles. While the first film took place from the 1700s to 1837, a second will cover the period from 1838 to 1878, and a third from 1879 to the 1970s.
The Rundles, through their company Fourth Wall Films, are at work on two documentaries — one on one-room schoolhouses in the Midwest, the other on Marshalltown, Iowa, native and controversial actress Jean Seberg — for release over the next year.
The Ioway documentary contains themes that resonate with American Indians as well as non-natives, the couple said.
“I hope it’s not just because it’s a Native American story, but because it’s a human story. There are people and human circumstances, even if you’re not Native American, that you can relate to. We’ve all experienced a loss of some kind, and that’s what we’re talking about in the film,” Tammy Rundle said.
“Maybe they were forgotten, but as a result of the film, they are not forgotten,” she added.
The “Lost Nation” in the title does not reflect the tribe’s true history, Kelly Rundle said.
“The Ioway have never been lost — they’ve been here all along — but certainly we’d misplaced them.”