Joanna Kail from Wyoming PBS introduced the director, the producer and the film before the screening began on Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Shawn O’Brate.

By Shawn O’Brate

RIVERTON – On Wednesday afternoon a special event took place at one of the oldest establishments in Fremont County as local documentarian Mark Pedri brought his film “Dear Sirs” to the ACME Theater. 

Pedri, who is originally from Rock Springs, along with his spouse Carrie McCarthy, both graduated from Rock Springs High School and both went to the University of Wyoming for their own degrees. Afterward, while creating a documentary over energy production, they found their combined love for making films and started Burning Torch Productions. 

The short films, student films, and major feature length releases that Pedri and the production company have released over the years all built to this newest film that he “had to make” because of his connection to the plot. 

“Dear Sirs” is a documentary that shows “a personal journey through World War II 75 years later” from the perspective of Pedri’s grandfather Silvio who was a prisoner of war across Germany and France during the final year of the war. 

“My grandfather never talked about his service,” Pedri said about Silvio. “After he passed away we found all sorts of things he kept: documents, letters, photos … the film is truly a journey through the war through reading the letters that he sent home to his future wife, combined with his story and the history of World War II and the P.O.W. experience.”

Not only did Pedri and McCarthy do their homework, but they also biked across Germany trying to “put together the pieces” which is the dual narrative that fills the rest of the documentary. But, through the lens of a Wyoming native and a Wyoming soldier the film has plenty of ties to the Cowboy State.

“It’s more of a personal film than a historical film,” Pedri said. “But through that personal journey you really learn the context of World War II, what was happening at the time and also in Wyoming. That’s the cool tie to Wyoming, it’s a very Wyoming story, you experience World War II through a Wyoming perspective.”

Burning Torch Productions, which is based and run out of Rock Springs, knew that Wyoming should be featured in this film because of how integral the state was to Silvio and his story. Not only was he a Wyomingite that helped protect the state, and the country, but he came back to Wyoming and was a mine worker with a large family. 

Silvio’s story is his own, and Pedri’s decision to bring his story to the big screen was more than just a personal decision for a new film, it was a way to shine a light on a topic that is different and not brought up nearly enough.

“Every prisoner of war is different,” Pedri explained. “I think that’s why this might be interesting to some people … maybe they’ve heard some stories about prisoners of wars, or saw the sitcom ‘Hogan’s Heroes,’ and that’s the perspective people have. It’s not really an explored topic when you look at documentaries or stories in general.”

After watching the film, the director and producer of the documentary feel that more people should do what they did while filming: find out more about their family’s history. 

“In making the film I found out more about my family’s history with it,” McCarthy said. “I had a great uncle who was also a prisoner of war, he had actually written in a diary and reading that I almost felt like he was going to run into Silvio because their stories were very similar … Making the film inspired me to look into my family, and that’s what we hope the film does for other people. We hope that they look into their family’s connection.”

If you or someone you know were unable to make it to the special screening there are more showings coming up in Wyoming, including the November 2 showing in Cheyenne and the Veteran’s Day (November 11) special screening in Laramie. If those options are not available for you, you can view the free virtual screening at all of next week. You can also find DVDs of the film for sale on the website or wait for the film to be shown on Wyoming PBS starting later this year.