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A Minnesota movie at RIFF

April 13, 2019

The Rochester International Film Fest prioritizes movies from continents around the world – but Minnesotans can also see a home-grown story on the big screen this weekend and next.

Filmmaker Louise Woehrle worked for nearly a decade on Stalag Luft III – One Man’s Story, a documentary based on her uncle’s experiences as a prisoner of war.

Charles Woehrle – called “Uncle Charles” by everyone involved in the filmmaking process, Woehrle said – served as an airman in the “Mighty Eighth” during WWII.

Shortly into his service, the 50-50 chance of being shot down or captured stacked the dice too high, and Charles Woehrle became a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft III.

The Nazi prison camp was immortalized in film by the 1963 movie, “The Great Escape.” But while those events took place during Charles Woehrle’s imprisonment, filmmaker Woehrle said there’s far more to the story.

Uncle Charles spent two years in Stalag Luft III. How could there not be?

It’s a “collective story of how many times he could have or should have died – and he didn’t,” Louise Woehrle said. “You just go, ‘How did he survive?’”

Woehrle spent nearly nine years fundraising and producing the film, the interviews for which were conducted in 2010.

She grew up hearing stories about WWII from her father and Uncle Charles, but was still floored by the amount of detail he remembered in the 11 hours of footage collected.

“His story speaks to our history, but also represents a man with so much integrity,” Woehrle said. “He describes his experiences in a way that other families of World War II vets, those who couldn’t talk about the war … can learn about what happened.”