Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 24, 2018

Saving Brinton premieres at State Theatre

Sep 18, 2017
: Washington Chamber of Commerce Ambassador Genie Davis, left, congratulates local historian Mike Zahs on the documentary ‘Saving Brinton,’ which chronicled his struggle to bring attention to found films of Frank Brinton.

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


It was standing-room-only Saturday afternoon as the 90-minute documentary on the Frank Brinton movies, as well as the films’ custodian local historian Mike Zahs, had its Iowa premiere in the State Theatre.

The story had actually begun over 100 years ago when Washington residents Frank and Indiana Brinton traveled to local theatres, sharing the new invention of film with the public. Several of the films were discovered in 1981 in the basement of Indiana Brinton’s executor and were given to Zahs. The documentary chronicles Zahs’ quest to preserve the films and to give them a modern audience.

“It is an exciting and harried situation,” Zahs said just before the beginning of the film. “It is just surprising the number of people who had come. We were having people come wanting tickets which haven’t been available for some time. Some people drove over an hour to get here and there were no tickets.”

Another showing of the film will be held at 6:30 p.m. today. The film also will be shown on Sept. 29 in Iowa City, and on Oct. 25 in Grinnell.

People seeing the 87 minute documentary can expect to see both the story of the Frank Brinton films and the story of Washington County. There are plenty of community shots from the last four years, including such things as Washington’s 175th anniversary celebration, the unveiling of the new marquee at the State Theatre, and the celebration where the State Theatre was named the longest continually running theater by Guinness.

Produced by Iowa City filmmakers Tommy Haines, John Richard and Andrew Sherburne, the film premiered at the American Film Institute’s prestigious AFI Docs festival in Washington, D.C., in June.

Modestly, Zahs, a former history teacher, declined to acknowledge he was the “star” of the movie, saying only he was in it.

“I think a star means you have done some acting and I did no acting in this film,” Zahs said. “I just played myself.”

The movie showed many pieces of Zahs’ life, including glimpses of his collection of Washington historic items collected over many years.

As the packed house waited for the film top begin, The Washington Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting for the film. While most people acknowledged they wanted to see the film to see the showcasing of the area, some have the secondary goal of hoping to see themselves in the film that was shot in Washington County.

“This is the highlight of the whole year for me,” Dani Kane, the former assistant director of the Chamber, said. “I had seen this for three years and I got to play little piece in it until they went across the globe. I am so excited I am shaking.”

Kane was featured in several scenes in the movie.

During the introduction, MC Patty Kohler said while the movies themselves were a significant part of history, no one would have known about them if not for Zahs. “

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