On Tuesday evening, March 5, 2013, The Hjemkomst: Thirty Years Later debuted at the Fargo Film Festival to an appreciative crowd who braved the snow to attend. This film not only tells the story about the expedition but also where the people are today. Eli A. Kaufman, the director, was able to forge this vast story into a powerful short film. His talent showed through by winning the festival’s prestigious 2013 Prairie Spirit Award.
So how did a California filmmaker with no ties to the area or Viking culture get involved in telling the story of the Hjemkomst Expedition? It all began back at Fargo Film Festival 2010. Eli was in Fargo to screen his student films California King and Winning the Peace award at the festival. Tony Tilton, a board member of the Fargo Film Festival, suggested they visit the museum at the Hjemkomst Center to see some local sites. Eli was “blown away” by the story of Bob Asp’s dream of building a replica Viking ship and sailing it to Norway come to life with the help of his friends and family. Stories such as the Hjemkomst Expedition are precisely what Eli’s employer, GOOD, is looking for. GOOD is a multimedia platform that promotes, connects and reports on people, businesses and non-profits that are making a positive impact on the world. They share inspiring stories such as Bob Asp’s through video, print and social media.
The Birth of a Short Film
Tony Tilton introduced Eli to Maureen Kelly Jonason, the Executive Director of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County and they agreed that the story deserved a fresh take thirty years later. Maureen invited Eli to return to Minnesota in July 2010 for the 30th anniversary of the “launch” of the ship from the Hawley potato warehouse where Eli conducted interviews with town locals. Next Jonason raised the funds to make this project possible by securing a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society to pay for the production costs, and GOOD paid the salaries of the film crew. So the stage was set for Eli and his team of Alex Gorosh and Harry Mayers to fly out and film the 30th Anniversary of the Hjemkomst Expedition in July 2011. “I was really inspired by how much Bob’s dream had captured the imagination of the community,” Eli said. “To see all these people make Bob’s dream their own and work tirelessly to make it a reality just shows how powerful a group of committed people can be.”
Altogether, Eli made three trips from California to Minnesota. His team was able to crystalize the vast story—and over 140 hours of footage– into eleven minutes, combining their footage and archival film footage of the family and crew. “I hope the film turns out as well as the process of making it was,” said Eli.
So what is next for the film and Eli A. Kaufman? He will hopefully continue to screen the film at festivals around the country, but The Hjemkomst: Thirty Years Later will be playing in the Historical and Cultural Society’s museum at the Hjemkomst Center on a continuous basis. “The fact that the film is going to have a sustained life as a part of the permanent exhibit in the museum and available for purchase in the gift shop is such an honor. I can’t wait to bring my family for a visit,” said Eli. “I want to thank Maureen and Marty Jonason, Amanda Nordick, Tim Jorgensen, and Markus Krueger for their generosity and support. This film and the adventure of making it would not have been possible without the help of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, the Asp family and the Hjemkomst crew.
The Hjemkomst: Thirty Years Later is now available to purchase in the Heritage Shop and available for viewing at the Hjemkomst Center. For more information, check out our website at www.hcscconline.org.