Anthony: An eye-opening film tour for ‘Mission Mt. Mangart’
When I sat down and started editing “Mission Mt. Mangart” in April 2020 during the thick of the COVID-19 lockdown, I had no clue the educational journey I was about to embark on. I was also unaware of how much this documentary about the past would have in common with the moment and future events. I’m referring to Vladimir Putin invading a neighboring country.
My research involved not only going to archives in libraries, but also visiting monuments. Coincidentally, a crazy movement in our country was happening to cancel out historical names and tearing down monuments.
While editing “Mission Mt. Mangart” I wondered how dictators of our past — Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Josip Broz Tito and the worst of them all, Adolph Hitler — gain so much power? But the question was being answered in real time as I was watching governors, mayors and other politicians of certain states and cities become drunk with power and narcissism by using the pandemic to exercise authoritarianism on others, yet conveniently not abide by the same laws themselves.
Fear became a mechanism of control. The more fear, the more air time and power political leaders gained. They exercised this through restrictions, mandates and rationalized it by guilting us that we needed to hold up our end of the bargain. But to what end?
Slowly we were losing our freedoms. But this was the responsible thing to do. If you didn’t, you then are a bad citizen. They went as far as encouraging citizens to police fellow citizens for ridiculous infractions, while larger ones seemed to go unpunished. Big name actors publicly said, “screw your freedom.” I will never look at them or their films the same way again.
Just a brief study of history prior to World War II would show you a very similar pattern of behavior. Coincidentally, this is the time period I was researching for “Mission Mt. Mangart.”
When I started editing “Mission Mt. Mangart” my intention was to build a skiing history story that would memorialize the first American ski troopers. But this grew into something else. It became a timely World War II documentary. Perhaps the mission of Mt. Mangart was for a different purpose. It was to bring to life a period of human history that should not be forgotten during a time when we could so easily repeat the same mistakes of the past.
As a student, I always thought history class was boring. Now I have learned it seemed that way because of how it was presented. At the time, it was just dates connected to a location that I was not emotionally attached to and meant nothing to me.
What can change this for me was to bring to life something that connected me with those dates and location. The story of the 10th Mountain Division did just that. This was not just a ski story. This was a history documentary that just happens to have skiing involved in it.
A couple of months ago I was driving outside Munich, Germany. Some part of my brain was triggered by a sign for Nuremberg. I pulled off the autobahn and googled it. I was very close to the site of the Nuremberg Rallies and eventually the Nuremberg Trials in 1945 at the end of World War II. I was also very close to Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp opened in 1933 initially to hold political prisoners rebelling against government mandates put forward by a tyrant.
I spent a rainy cold day walking through the camp where they have kept thousands of records and have displayed not only what took place at that location but what led up to this happening. The propaganda was the most disturbing thing. It created fear, and creatively turned one ethnic group against others, and proposed that citizens police citizens and so on.
The pattern looked very familiar. It is an eye-opening experience. Eventually, the camp held and tortured Poles, Romani, Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Catholic priests. If you did not get sick to your stomach walking through this place, something is off. More important, if you can’t see how easily now all of this can happen, then something is missing from our education: history.
“Mission Mt. Mangart” has become, for at least myself, so much more than building the documentary. As I have traveled around portions of the country presenting the film live and in person, it has had a profound impact on me as well as the different groups taking it in.
It is hard to explain, but when I started this project, I just wanted to talk about a ski race that took place in 1945 on the Yugoslavian border by Americans. I opened up Pandora’s box. Who would have thought a ski story could have such meaning.
Chris Anthony is the writer, director, editor and producer of “Mission Mt. Mangart”, which chronicles the events leading up to June 3, 1945, when a ski race was held in the former Yugoslavia, hosted and organized by the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division.