WATCH NOW: Award-winning historical drama from former Waterloo filmmakers premiered at Cedar Rapids Film Festival | Local News

WATERLOO — An award-winning docudrama with metro ties will premiere Saturday at the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival.

“Sons & Daughters of Thunder,” by Mid-America Emmy-winning filmmakers Tammy and Kelly Rundle of Fourth Wall Films, will screen at 10:10 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the Collins Road Theaters in Marion. To visit for ticket and festival information.

“We are truly honored to have ‘Sons & Daughters of Thunder’ screened at the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival,” said producer Tammy Rundle, a Waterloo native and 1980 West High School graduate.

“CRIFF is one of Iowa’s top film festivals, and we’re always thrilled when our film projects are selected and included among so many great works.”

“Sons & Daughters of Thunder” is based on a play written by playwrights Earlene Hawley and Curtis Heeter of Waverly. It tells the true story of the anti-slavery debates at Ohio Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati in 1834.

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Kelly and Tammy Rundle of Fourth Wall Films with their Emmy award. Tammy is from Waterloo and graduated from West High School in 1980.


“Kelly and I wrote the screenplay for the film, which was based on the play but reflects more of key historical figures like abolitionists Frederick Douglass, James Bradley, and we made Harriet Beecher a central integral part of the story, as well than other cinematic changes,” Tammie says.

The Rundles added a prologue and epilogue featuring Frederick Douglass’ famous 4th of July speech from the 1850s. Mark Winn plays Douglass in the film.

marc winn as frederick douglass.jpg

Mark Winn as Frederick Douglass in “Sons & Daughters of Thunder,” which premieres Saturday at the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival.


The film also features many cast and crew members from Iowa. Earlene and her late husband, Kent, appear in the 4th of July crowd scene in the film.

“Kent was an incredible man who we became very close to. He was an advocate for Earlene’s work as a playwright and the film project,” Tammy said.

In 1834, the controversial Debates, led by abolitionist and incendiary Theodore Weld (Thomas Alan Taylor) were the first to publicly discuss the end of slavery in America. The meetings angered townspeople and seminary officials, who imposed a gag order on the entire student body. The action led to a free speech protest and a mass exodus of students from Lane.


Earlene and Kent Hawley, center, while filming ‘Sons & Daughters of Thunder’ in their costumes, posing with Harriet Beecher (Jessica Taylor), Theodore Weld (Thomas Alan Taylor in full beard) and Calvin Stowe (Daniel Rairdin-Hale ) at the Karpeles Museum in Rock Island, Illinois.


Through the debates, a young Harriett Beecher (Jessica Taylor) was awakened to the horrors of slavery and was later inspired to write her famous novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The book helped set the stage for the American Civil War, a sentiment credited to President Abraham Lincoln.


Thomas Alan Taylor as abolitionist Theodore Weld in a scene from “Sons & Daughters of Thunder”.


Several years ago, the Rundles filmed part of the docudrama at the historic Harriet Beecher Stowe home in Cincinnati, some 180 years after the day of the debates. The Beecher House is the only remaining structure on what had been the seminary grounds.

At the time, Kelly Rundle told the Courier that filming in the Beecher house was an incredible experience.

“We were there in Lyman Beecher’s office with Janos Horvath who plays Beecher and Taylor who plays Weld, exactly where these people were standing 180 years ago. It was surreal. They were people of faith who disagreed on this issue, and the reaction in the city was close to mob violence,” he said.

Historic sites from Iowa, Illinois, and Connecticut are featured in the film, including the Jenny Lind Chapel in Andover, Illinois.

“Sons & Daughters of Thunder” received the Harriet Beecher Stowe Power of Voice Award at the Over-the-Rhine Film Festival in Cincinnati; seven Iowa Film Awards; and three 2020 Mid-America Emmy nominations, including Best Screenwriting, Best Arts/Entertainment/Special Program, and Best Original Score by William Campbell of Davenport.

Several of the Rundles’ documentaries have received CRIFF awards over the years, including “Villisca: Living with a Mystery”, “Lost Nation: The Ioway”, “Country School: One Room – One Nation”, “River to River: Iowa’s Forgotten Highway 6”, “The Barn Raisers”, “Letters Home to Hero Street”, and “The Amish Incident”.

For more information on the film, visit “Sons & Daughters of Thunder” was partially funded by grants from Quad City Arts, the Illinois Arts Council and the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation.

The Rundles are the owners of Fourth Wall Films, a multi-award-winning, Emmy-winning independent film and video production company based in the Quad Cities.