By Ryan Yuenger
A piece of local history is now recognized and awarded around the world.
House of David: eternal life, a film exploring the origins and history of the House of David in Benton Harbor, was named Best American Film at the Cannes World Film Festival this week.
Chris Siriano, executive producer and founder of the House of David museum, who has dedicated much of his life to preserving and showcasing the history of the House of David, said he was shocked to wake up and to see the news of the Cannes prize.
“It’s mind-boggling,” Siriano said. “I’m the little guy in my own little museum who tries to tell the story to every person who walks in. For 27 years, the story has been told to tens of thousands of people – and counting – and that makes me swell the heart. .”
During his years of researching the House of David, Siriano was able to speak to many living members of the group and acquired over 10,000 photos of their history in the process.
“We narrowed it down to 800 photos, posters and footage that we share in the film,” Siriano said. “It has to be one of the best documented pieces of history because of the photos.”
House of David: Eternal Life covers every aspect of the organization, from their amusement park and baseball team to the sex scandal involving frontman Benjamin Purnell. For the better part of the past two years, Siriano has worked with Emmy Award-winning South Haven filmmaker Rob Byrd of Moondog Productions on the project.
“He’s amazing,” said Siriano, of Byrd. “He’s such an over-the-top perfectionist. He just kept editing and perfecting the film. Night after night after night, he no longer slept. And no, there you go, those are the results we see at all these film festivals across the planet. »
Siriano said he submitted the film to 88 film festivals around the world and received Best Documentary, Best Director, Best Producer and Best Editing awards from several from Chicago to New York to Australia.
The local reception has been equally incredible for Siriano. The film screened throughout southwest Michigan, and Celebration Cinema told Siriano that his film did better than Elvis.
“It’s amazing for me to think of the success,” Siriano said, adding that he was contacted by . “I was just happy to have the film there. I hadn’t anticipated any of this.
Siriano said he has been contacted by Discovery, History Channel, Netflix and more. Like A Shot Entertainment from London will be traveling to film a series on the House of David next month.
“The results were breathtaking, humbling and shocking all at once,” Siriano said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
The next installment in the 10-part series Siriano, Byrd and co. are working on the House of David baseball team, which Siriano says has already caught the attention of newspapers around the world.
“They were such a unique part of baseball history,” Siriano said. “They were the only white team to regularly feature in the black leagues. … We’re really going to uncover and share a crazy story that we’ve just learned over the past year while making this movie.
Part Three will focus on the personal interviews Siriano has conducted with former members of the House of David over the past 25 years.
“It’s very emotional for me because they’re gone now,” Siriano said. “They were like my grandmothers and grandfathers for years.”
To buy or watch House of David: eternal life, visit HODfilm.com.